The Citroen C4 WRCs' first outing in Bulgaria After the first part of the season run exclusively on ice and gravel, the FIA World Rally Championship is back on asphalt. Rally Bulgaria, will be a new challenge for the Citroen Total World Rally...
The Citroen C4 WRCs' first outing in Bulgaria
After the first part of the season run exclusively on ice and gravel, the FIA World Rally Championship is back on asphalt. Rally Bulgaria, will be a new challenge for the Citroen Total World Rally Team as the event is on the WRC calendar for the first time. Sebastien Loeb et Daniel Elena, who are leading the Drivers' World Championship, are out to score their fourth victory of the season, and to achieve this they will have to beat their team-mates, Dani Sordo and Marc Marti, who are always very quick on this type of surface.
Rally Bulgaria, one of the flagship events of the European Rally Championship, has become part of the World Championship this season. Citroen has already won this event thanks to the victory of Bruno Thiry and his Xsara Kit-Car ten years ago. For Loeb / Elena and Sordo / Marti, the rally will be a totally new challenge.
"It's difficult to know exactly what to expect as everybody who's told me about this event has given me a different description!" laughs Dani Sordo. "Without anticipating what lies in store, we can say that the stages are wide and quick and that the surface isn't always in the best of states. But no worries, the team knows the car so well that it'll be able to find the right setups for the conditions we'll have to cope with on the spot."
Rally Bulgaria based in Borovets, the oldest ski resort in the country, will be run on the adjacent mountain roads. There are only fourteen stages in the event whose nerve centre will be the Dolna Banya aerodrome.
"There aren't all that many stages and some of them use the same sections in one direction or the other," Dani goes on. "Unlike on gravel, starting sixth on the road won't be an advantage, especially if the other cars hitting the apexes spread a lot of gravel on the lines. However, we're happy to be back in an event on asphalt. We haven't run on this type of surface, on which we've always done well, in a rally for a long time."
Sebastien Loeb who hasn't been beaten in a 100% asphalt event since 2005 (!) will obviously start this new rally as favourite: "It's true that we've always been pretty successful on asphalt. I'm more or less in the same case as Dani: I've had some information about the stages we'll have to cope with, but I don't really pay much heed as it doesn't change anything concerning our preparation. We'll find out during reconnaissance what the route is like." For the two crews of the Citroen Total World Rally Team the aim is identical to be in a position to go for victory to score the maximum number of points in both championships.
Loeb with three victories, two second and a third place has a comfortable lead in the Drivers' World Championship with 38 points in hand over Sebastien Ogier. Dani Sordo, whose season got off to a difficult start, currently lies sixth. In the Manufacturers' ratings Citroen is in first place, 26 points in front of its nearest rival.
Three questions to Sebastien Loeb
Have you been able to relax a little in the five weeks since your last rally?
"When I see how little time I've spent at home, I don't feel like I've had any holidays! Between the different test sessions, promotion work, a quick trip to the Le Mans 24 Hours and a GT race in France, I haven't really had time to relax. And this weekend we'll be in Sofia to put on a road show for the Bulgarians. But as I hate doing nothing, it's probably just as well! I feel absolutely ready to tackle the second part of the season."
Since your retirement due to mechanical failure in the 2004 Spanish rally, you haven't been beaten in 100% asphalt rallies. So do you reckon that the result of Rally Bulgaria is a foregone conclusion?
"It would be a huge mistake to think like that! It's true that asphalt is our favourite hunting ground, but we have to tackle this rally in a humble state of mind. We're going to discover a new route which will certainly have its own specific character. We'll have to cope with the weather as stages at 2000 metres above sea level can be upset by storms, and also there's the choice between the Pirelli P-Zero softs and hards. As always when I start a rally my aim is victory. Even if it's sometimes necessary, I don't like pussy footing just to ensure a place finish if I know that I can win."
Are you happy about the fact that the end of the season is mainly on asphalt?
"It's all the more pleasant as last season we only raced in one true asphalt event! This year's calendar is better balanced and I'm delighted that Rally Germany is back on it again. There's also Rally France, which is going to be one of the high points of the season. We recently had a test session in the Vosges and I was amazed by the number of fans who turned up. I don't even dare imagine what the ambience will be like in the rally in Alsace!"