The Juniors aim for a Portuguese conquest After the debut of the Junior Championship on the Rally Norway, the overwhelming majority of the C2 Junior Experience competitors will meet in Portugal. Only Aaron Burkart, fifth in Norway with a C2...
The Juniors aim for a Portuguese conquest
After the debut of the Junior Championship on the Rally Norway, the overwhelming majority of the C2 Junior Experience competitors will meet in Portugal. Only Aaron Burkart, fifth in Norway with a C2 Super 1600, has chosen to play his joker and give Rally Portugal a miss. For the other seven drivers in the C2 Junior Experience, the season starts here.
Portugal is the second rally on the Junior calendar and also the first gravel event, as well as being an entirely unknown quantity for everyone. After a five-year absence, Portugal only makes its return to the FIA World Championship this season. The Junior crews will face a tough task, tackling 18 special stages and nearly 1000 kilometres through the heart of the Algarve, in the area around Faro in the south of Portugal.
With 357.10 kilometres of special stages, this rally will be far from easy. "We have very little information to go on about the event, " said Yves Matton, Citroen Sport's Customer Competitions manager. " Our only experience of it comes from Dani Sordo, who drove the rally twice in 2005 and 2006. We know that if there is bad weather, the surfaces are likely to be very difficult and extremely slippery. If it's dry though, the rally should be quite smooth. "
Two Citroen C2 Super 1600 cars and five Citroen C2-R2s will mark the real start of this year's C2 Junior Experience on Thursday night, at the spectator superspecial held in the Algarve Stadium close to Faro. Shaun Gallagher, who finished eighth in Norway as the only C2-R2 driver, now faces tough opposition from Raphael Auquier, Gilles Schammel, Stefano Benoni and Dominique Rebout. Their biggest motivation will be to try and close down the points gap that Gallagher opened out in Norway, aiming for the coveted end of year prize awarded to the highest-placed C2-R2 driver. Nonetheless, Gallagher will be the most experienced driver there. " It's good to see that we've brought on a number of new drivers with the C2-R2 " said Yves Matton. " Raphael Auquier, Stefano Benoni and Dominique Rebout have no experience of the Junior Championship. Portugal will also be their first gravel rally, so they will have to get used to the car and a new surface at the same time. The goal for them is to get to the finish and to learn from the experience they should gain in Portugal. "
Driving the C2 Super 1600, Martin Prokop and Conrad Rautenbach have already accumulated plenty of Junior Championship knowledge. They too will start their season with the firm aim of doing better than the fifth place Aaron Burkart managed in Norway, in order to gain the upper hand in this year's FIA Junior Championship. " Martin and Conrad have the chance of an excellent result in Portugal" said Yves Matton. " In particular, Conrad has just won the Safari Rally in the IRC and he is very happy with the test he has just completed with the Ph Sport team. Both drivers have the possibility of doing very well but the big unknown will be how well they get on with the territory. Having said that, we're still hopeful that they will end up on the podium. "
Quotes ... before the Rally Portugal
Raphael Auquier (B) Cedric Pirotte (B) (Citroen C2-R2)
" I've got everything to learn on this rally : a new team, a new car, a new co-driver, a new championship and a new route... My main goal is to get to the finish, in as good a position as possible. But the real target is to complete all the stages, in order to gain as much experience as I can. We'll draw our conclusions at the end of the rally and think then about the future! "
Stefano Benoni (I) Enrico Cantoni (I) (Citroen C2-R2)
" I really hope we have a good rally. I'm new to the Junior Championship, and we will have to fight against much more experienced drivers. I know that it's going to be a big challenge, but I will try my best to have a clean run and I hope at least to get to the finish. "
Shaun Gallagher (IRL) Clive Jenkins (GB) (Citroen C2-R2)
" Rally Norway was very difficult for me but Portugal will be quite different although it is still an extremely tough rally. I'm currently leading the C2-R2 classification as I was the only C2-R2 driver in Norway, but everybody else will be out in Portugal. My aim is to continue to build up experience with the car, which is very reliable, and to finish Portugal in at least as good a position as I finished Rally Norway. "
Martin Prokop (CZ) Jan Tomanek (CZ) (Citroen C2 Super 1600)
" I'm feeling very optimistic about Portugal, even though it's just the first of my registered events this year to score points. The C2 Junior Experience programme has given me a lot of motivation. I think we are well-prepared. We completed 300 kilometres of testing on gravel and my feeling with the car is a lot better than it was before. If I have no problems and avoid punctures, then I hope to be in the top five at the finish. "
Conrad Rautenbach (ZW) David Senior (GB) (Citroen C2 Super 1600)
"We did some tests last week and the car seems to be in good shape for this rally. It's my first Junior Championship rally of the year so I hope above all to finish. My goal is as always to get the best possible result, but of course I wouldn't say no to a win either ! "
Dominique Rebout (F) Isabelle Galmiche (F) (Citroen C2-R2)
" I hope to get to the end of this rally. It's my first attempt at a World Championship rally and also my first event on gravel. There's a lot for me to learn, so I think it's clear that I won't be able to fight with the others, even though I don't know them or how they will get on. Still, I've done some testing with the car on gravel and it went well so let's see how we do. "
Gilles Schammel (L) Renaud Jamoul (B) (Citroen C2-R2)
" This will be the first event where all five C2-R2 drivers will compete together. So we'll see how it pans out after the first few stages. As for me, I'm getting back onto gravel so it certainly won't be easy to begin with. I will need to get used to it again. I can't say anything about our possible result, as unlike the following five events, Portugal is the only rally that I do not know. "