Citroen looking forward to Argentine fervour The Citroen Total World Rally Team makes the journey out to the Rally Argentina with unfeigned enthusiasm. The cocktail of quality stages, stunning landscapes, omnipresent spectators and its recent ...
Citroen looking forward to Argentine fervour
The Citroen Total World Rally Team makes the journey out to the Rally Argentina with unfeigned enthusiasm. The cocktail of quality stages, stunning landscapes, omnipresent spectators and its recent record of top results in South America makes this a rally apart for the team. After claiming the first four rounds of 2009, Sebastien Loeb and Daniel Elena will be looking to extend their current unbeaten run, while Dani Sordo and Marc Marti will be ready to pounce on the slightest opportunity and will no doubt enjoy special support from the local fans.
Not only is Rally Argentina a legendary round of the World Championship, but it has also tended to be happy hunting ground for Citroen. The Satory-based squad has won every edition since 2004, with Sebastien Loeb and Daniel Elena following up the success of Carlos Sainz and Marc Marti with a score of four consecutive victories.
The Franco-Monegasque pair has also notched up a run of four straight wins since the start of the 2009 WRC campaign. "It's the best start we've ever had to any season," notes Sebastien. "In South America, we don't really have any other choice than to go for victory. Rally Argentina holds so many special memories for us, and that's not just because we have won the past four events. I really enjoy the stages and the spectators make the atmosphere unique. We know we can count on the same sort of welcome that we were given two weeks ago in Portugal, and it's always nice to see the passion of the people of the different countries we visit. There are spectators everywhere: at service, on the road sections and on the stages. You practically don't need a roadbook because the route is picked out for you by the crowds!"
Sebastien and Daniel finished on top after last year's particularly wet event: "That wasn't an easy win. Our hard compound gravel tyres weren't really suited to the conditions on certain stages and we nearly didn't make it to the finish. This year, we will have a soft version of the Pirelli Scorpion and that's a good thing. It will no doubt be more versatile, although it could wear very quickly if the weather turns out to be very hot. But Pirelli have done a first class job. They faced a big challenge and have come up with a range of tyres that are both competitive and strong. For example, there was concern when run-flat mousse was dropped, but that's no longer an issue."
The 2009-specification C4 WRC made its debut in Portugal where it kicked off its career with a win which, according to Sebastien, is a promising omen for the rest of the season: "The Rally de Portugal was fairly typical of the terrain we find in the WRC. Every event is different, but a car which goes well in the Algarve is also likely to be quick in Argentina, Sardinia, Greece and Poland. The Argentine stages feature a fairly sandy surface, which makes them very slippery. Technically, I believe the 2009-specification C4 WRC marks a step forward on the suspension front in certain conditions, and the engine is more drivable, too."
Dani Sordo and Marc Marti finished on the podium last year in Argentina and will be out to repeat that performance this time round. "Like Portugal, it's a rally where we tend to feel pretty much at home," says the Spaniard. "I found the 2008 event to be very difficult. I hope the current fine weather in Villa Carlos Paz continues. Our objective will be the same as it has been on recent events, and that will be to score as many Manufacturers' points as we can for Citroen."
Three questions to Dani Sordo
With Cyprus and Portugal now behind you, how do you judge your performance on the loose so far this year?
"I wasn't totally happy in Cyprus. There were too many slow portions and very little grip, which wasn't really to my liking. I didn't feel totally comfortable. I had a very good feeling with my Citroen C4 WRC in Portugal, though. It was very easy to drive and I especially enjoyed the stages which featured faster portions. The recently-homologated new version of the car is an improvement. You can feel the difference regarding both the rear suspension and the engine."
The next round takes you to Argentina where you have many fans. What sort of result will you be targeting?
"Rally Argentina is a great event. The stages are really interesting, both for the crews and the spectators, with great roads and some breathtaking landscapes. The stages are very varied, too. There are portions which are fast and wide, while others are much narrower. I sincerely believe that this is one of the finest rallies of the year. The atmosphere and fervour are unique. I would like to finish on the podium again and I intend to take the fight to Mikko Hirvonen."
You have been very consistent this year, scoring 23 points in four events. What is your objective in the championship?
"My job is to score points for the team. Citroen is 24 points clear at the top of the Manufacturers' standings at the moment. That's good, but there's still a long way to go and we must continue to try to build up a lead. Sebastien already enjoys a big cushion in the Drivers' points table, and I'm not far behind Mikko Hirvonen. He is driving very consistently, but I intend to try to close the gap with him."