Rally Australia: Kronos Racing preview

Kronos' young aces ready for the Australian challenge With the absence in Australia of masters Sebastien Loeb and Daniel Elena, Kronos Racing has decided to play the youth card and to nominate for the first time together Xevi Pons/Carlos Del ...

Kronos' young aces ready for the Australian challenge

With the absence in Australia of masters Sebastien Loeb and Daniel Elena, Kronos Racing has decided to play the youth card and to nominate for the first time together Xevi Pons/Carlos Del Barrio and Dani Sordo/Marc Marti. The Spanish crews will both take part in the FIA WRC's fourteenth round with the 2006 version of the Xsara WRC with `passive differentials'.

It might be the last time that the city of Perth Western Australia's capital and the world's most isolated big town hosts the Australian round of the world championship, just like it did discontinuously since 1989. Langley Park, which sits on the Swan river's right bank, offers one the most beautiful single service park of the season. Not far from there is Gloucester Park horse track, home of the `Perth City Super Special', which drivers will contest no fewer than six times in total, and also featuring the shakedown on Wednesday evening.

Except for this innovation, the 2006 route is similar to last year's, with visits to the Dwellingup region, to the Mundaring/Helena River area east of Perth and to the Sotico Complex, famous for its spectacular jumps.

If most of the drivers appreciate the delightful city of Perth, they seem to like a bit less Perth's stages specificity. They feature small, marble-like stones that form an unstable top-coating. Their colour ranges from yellow to dark ochre, while their size varies between that of a garden pea to that of a playground marble. The combination of this loose surface, the high average speeds between 105 and 110 km/h on the five last editions - reached by the drivers and the proximity of the trees in the forest stages makes this one of the toughest challenges of the entire championship.

Since 2002, date of its first outing on the wallaby grounds, the Xsara WRC has integrated the specificities of the Australian terrain and has improved continuously. It competed for first place in 2003 and won the event in 2004 and 2005. The Xsara is now ready to tackle the aussie stages as far as traction and precision in handling are concerned. The Australian rally is probably one where road sweeping is the most penalising, especially on dry conditions.

As spring shows up in Perth, rain should not be expected to minor the `sweeping tax'. Starting third on the road on day one, Dani Sordo could probably not avoid completely the road cleaning. However, the lines from the cars preceding him might help. The target for the Junior World champion will be to take maximum profit of this and stick up to the leaders in order to avoid a penalising starting order on day two. Seventh on the road on Friday, Xevi Pons will benefit from better conditions to try to reach the same goal: keep the front runners in his sight.

Kronos Total Citroen' Spanish young aces know the team counts on them and they are both extremely motivated to take part in the battle for the Manufacturers' title...

Questions to...

Jean-Pierre Mondron and Marc Van Dalen, Kronos Racing...

You have chosen to nominate your two young Spanish drivers in Australia, with Xevi Pons driving Sebastien Loeb's Xsara...

Marc Van Dalen : "We've tried a bit of a gamble in Turkey but things didn't really go as Colin and ourselves wished. The road conditions were the worst possible for a driver's come- back. Those conditions required a perfect knowledge of the BFGoodrich tyre range. In Australia, Colin would have been a good choice with his experience of the terrain and the fact he would have encountered clean roads unlike in Turkey. Although, we have chosen to enter only two cars for this long and expensive trip. However young, Xevi is a strong member of the Kronos team. He found his confidence back and has performed really well in Turkey. He has already competed twice in Australia and has achieved a great result in 2004 and set some good times last year. According to me he deserves this `nomination'."

Your Xsaras are back to their traditional Citroen colours. Why?

Jean-Pierre Mondron: "We have concluded at the start of the season an agreement with Citroen Sport to rent some Xsara WRC for the sixteen rounds of the championship. This way we could enter the series as `Manufacturers 1'. Our partnership with Gauloises only concerned thirteen events. It came to an end with both parties very satisfied I think. From now until the end of the season, it is not excluded that a new partner could join in. In the meantime, given the technical support that Citroen has supplied us with, we have estimated that it was quite fair play to reward them for their trust by giving back the Xsara its original colours."

You've lost the lead of the `Manufacturers' Championship. How do you see Kronos' future regarding this competition?

Marc Van Dalen: "We were leading this competition since Mexico, thanks especially to Sebastien and Daniel. The fact that Kronos has resisted well to an extremely performing rival has contributed a lot in the interest of the championship. The gap before Australia is eight points with fifty-four remaining possible to score. Nothing is done yet. I trust our young Spanish drivers who have just demonstrated what they can do in Turkey. I am neither a dreamer nor pessimistic. Without hiding to ourselves how difficult is this coming challenge, we continue to fight. The fate has been rather against us recently. Let's see what it can offers now..."

..and to Xevi Pons.

For a lot of people, your Turkish rally is one of your best performance at the wheel of the Xsara WRC. Do you agree? How would judge your result in such difficult conditions?

"Maybe it's my best... I think I did quite well in Catalunya in 2005 too. But it's true, in Turkey I was performing and consistent throughout the whole event. I drove steadily, sure of myself... Although the conditions were very tricky with a lot of mud. I had never driven in such circumstances before. Maybe my experience as Enduro rider helped me. But what's the most important is that my confidence is back since Cyprus. Marc Van Dalen was right to advise me to take a break after Finland to try to find what was going wrong. The result is here. And deep in me, I know I can give even more. This season I have learnt so much next to the best professionals in the sport. Some things which I will use as a driver but also as a man..."

You have competed in Australia already twice in the past. Can you tell us a bit more about that?

"I took part in this rally twice. In 2004, with a Production car, it went really well. I finished second of the group N after a good battle with local drivers such as Chris Atkinson, Cody Crocker, and Dean Herridge. Without knowing the terrain, I set quite good times throughout the event. Actually this rally remains one of my best memories in Production category as well as New Zealand the year after. To come back to Australia, in 2005, I had a Kronos Xsara WRC. We posted quite good times on the first two `real' stages at the level of Francois Duval and Toni Gardemeister. Unfortunately, in `Turner Hill' we damaged the radiator going too sideways after a hairpin and we had to retire. Despite that I can say that I really like this rally."

Sebastien won't be in Australia and you are nominated instead of him. How are you feeling about taking the start with the number one of the doors of your car? Do you already feel some pressure?

"Seb is irreplaceable and I hope that he will back with us soon... He taught Dani and myself a lot this year. The owner of the number one is him, the world champion for whom I have an enormous respect. The fact I will be driving the nr one Xsara is only due to regulations purposes. I feel no pressure. I will start exactly like in Cyprus or Turkey. As I said I've learned a lot this season and I hope I won't repeat my old mistakes. I will drive very focused but I also hoping to enjoy it at the same time. My aim is to deserve the trust of Marc Van Dalen and Guy Frequelin. I hope to bring the maximum number of points to the team. For them to feel proud of me too..."

-credit: kronos racing

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About this article
Series WRC
Drivers Sébastien Loeb , Marc Marti , Toni Gardemeister , Chris Atkinson , Cody Crocker
Teams Citroën World Rally Team