Rally Deutschland: Kronos Racing preview

First round in Trier... The FIA World Rally Championship's break is now over and the second half of the season kicks off in Trier, the oldest city in Germany. For the second part of the year, the calendar will lead the...

First round in Trier...

The FIA World Rally Championship's break is now over and the second half of the season kicks off in Trier, the oldest city in Germany. For the second part of the year, the calendar will lead the competitors to the respective `gardens' of Sébastien Loeb and Marcus Grönholm. The first `round' will take place in `Deutschland' where Seb counts four wins in four participations, and the second round will happen in Finland a week later...

For Kronos Racing, this event represents the year's shortest journey. The lories transporting the three Citroëns have less than three hundred kilometres to cover between Naninne and the single service park of Bostalsee. As usual, the two 2006 passive differentials Xsaras are those entitled to score `Manufacturers' points, while the third one keeps its 2005 specifications. The news on this event come from the fact team-mates Dani Sordo/Marc Marti and Xevi Pons/Carlos Del Barrio have swapped roles in the Manufacturers points' quest: Dani and Marc inherit the number 2 Xsara while Xevi and Carlos now play the role of the free riders...

The `Deutschland' celebrates this year its fifth anniversary in the world class and now has became one of the calendar's classics with its own specificities. Situated within striking distance of five countries, it stands out as the most European of all the current rallies, and visitors from Belgium, Holland, Luxembourg, Switzerland and France, as well as German fans make this an extremely popular event for the spectators: as for the previous years, the organisers are expecting over 200.000 of them.

The rally route features three distinct terrains. One in the vineyards overlooking the Mosel Valley with narrow and fast roads twisting from a tight corner to the next, a second one in the Baumholder military camp on tank tracks with changing road surface, and a last one in Saarland with smooth and fast asphalt.

The final `Deutschland' flavour is given with the varied weather conditions. The summer heat generates frequent storms, while the presence of the Eifel and Hunsrück highlands forms a real `highway' to speed up weather systems. Rain can effectively move in with very short notice making tyre choices even more delicate, considering they should be done in some cases up to three hours before the start of the final stage of a loop.

Citroën Sport's development team has fine-tuned the Xsara's set-up for Germany as carefully as usual : Sébastien and Dani Sordo alternated behind the wheel, testing at the same time the tyre solutions of BFGoodrich, historical partner of the Chevrons brand. The rally history will also remember that for the 29-wins-and-three-world-crown-car, Germany was the very last tarmac test session.

Some more facts: Sébastien and Daniel will take their 21st and last start on tarmac with the Xsara WRC, exactly where they clinched their first world victory. They have won twelve of the twenty rallies competed on tarmac with their `old good Xsara'. Let's bet that if they can succeed once more in Trier, as they furiously wish to, very superstitious Daniel Elena might exceptionally speak about the number 13!

Questions to...

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

From Naninne to Trier there are only two hundred kilometres. Like Sébastien Loeb, Kronos competes in his own playground in Germany...

Jean-Pierre Mondron: "Belgium hasn't the chance to host a FIA WRC round and the `Deutschland' obviously takes place the closest to our workshops. We took part in the event only twice but we have excellent memories from both occasions. In 2002, our car driven by Bruno Thiry and Stéphane Prévot finished superb fifth. And last year Xevi Pons and Carlos Del Barrio claimed for ninth position overall and first privateer. Our two C2 Super 1600s also scored a one-two in the Junior category. I hope we will be successful again this year and I wish to see a lot of Belgian supporters there..."

For the first time, you have chosen to nominate Dani Sordo to score Manufacturers' points. Can you explain why?

Marc Van Dalen: "The Kronos team has the chance to count on two young, promising and performing drivers alongside Sébastien Loeb. Our job is to create the best environment around them but also to help them to become real professionals. During the first half of the season, Xevi Pons had the mission to score the maximum number of Manufacturers points. He took this very seriously and did a good job as we were leading the championship before the season break. Dani Sordo relays him in Germany and Finland in the aim to learn how to manage the increase of pressure brought by the necessity to think of the Manufacturers points. It's another test for him and I hope he will succeed there as brilliantly as he did for the previous ones..."

How do you see the second half of the championship?

MVD : "I have the feeling it will be even harder than the first part, with eight rallies in less than four months, including three overseas events amongst of which Japan, that Kronos will discover. It will be very intense and even if everything goes well, the team will have no time for a break or space for any mistake. We will `dive in the water' straight away with Germany and Finland happening with only week interval, and so very little time for the transfer to Jyväskylä, the Xsaras' check-up and their modifications into the gravel configuration. In these conditions, we will do our maximum to give our drivers, like for the first half of the season, reliable and performing Xsaras. We can also count on Citroën Sport's valuable help for that. Our prior target is to allow Sébastien and Daniel to maintain their lead in the Drivers rankings. But we will also try hard to defend our first position in the Manufacturers' championship..."

...to Sébastien Loeb...

In between your participation to the 24 hours of Le Mans and to the Rouergue rally, the 2007 calendar has been published. What do you think of it?

"The density of the events around the Mediterranean sea was such that I think it's not illogical that two of those are suppressed. I've always said that when it's really snowy, the Swedish rally is one of my favourites. If the Norwegian round matches the same level, it will give us as much pleasure. The stages in Portugal are meant to be very nice and we can be sure to find in this country a real popularity, just like in Argentina. Ireland brings one more tarmac event to the calendar. A tarmac which should be different from the other ones, maybe a bit tricky, but I don't dislike that. In a way, these news will add some curiosity and re-balance the repartition between the different surfaces, snow, gravel and asphalt..."

How did the preparation for your `Deutschland' go?

"The rally route has remained quite stable over the years since it first counted for the World championship. In consequence, we determine our set-up on the Xsara WRC about the same way from one year to another. We fine-tune it progressively with a first sequence in the Vosges region, similar to the Saarland stages, and with a German test with typical sections of the Mosel vineyards. And we still found some interesting things! This time the pre-event tests were a bit special : first because it was the last one of the Xsara WRC on tarmac and secondly because we also had the C4 with us. We had a great time..."

The calendar odds have made that with only week interval, you will fight against your main rival Marcus Grönholm on your own playground and then on his...

"It's quite exciting, don't you think? Both of us will try to win in the rival camp...But as we start with Germany, I will focus on that target first, which is winning at `home'. I am extremely cautious. Marcus has often been competitive there. I won for less than four seconds in 2003 and we've seen his car performs well since the start of the year. The dual will be tight and it might happen that other drivers share the battle as well. The weather could also play an important role and if everyone thinks I'm the favourite, I know nothing is done. But I am convinced the Kronos team, the Xsara, Daniel [Elena] and myself are ready for the fight..."

... and to Xevi Pons

What did you do during this long season break?

"Actually a bit of everything. I spent a lot of time with my family, my fiancée and my friends without however giving up the physical training. I took profit of that time to evaluate the first half of the season to understand where we succeeded and where we can progress. With my co-driver Carlos [Del Barrio], we have worked on the things we need to improve. But for me, the break has been too long. I am looking forward to driving my Xsara WRC again and to enjoying it. Two months without it is a lot..."

You have performed well in Germany so far: 1st group N in 2004, 9th overall and 1st privateer with a Kronos Xsara WRC in 2005. The untypical tarmac seems to suit you...

"Usually the Spaniards perform quite well in Germany. Our `asphalt' background and the good level of the Spanish championship give us a good basis to tackle this tricky terrain. In 2004, we achieved a good result considering the tight fight amongst several good drivers in the `Production' category. In 2005, I competed for the first time on tarmac with the Xsara in `Deutschland'. We improved our pace throughout the event without making mistakes."

For the first time this season, you find yourself in a position of `the third man' in the Kronos team, free to handle the event the way you want. How do you think you will take profit of the situation?

"For me it's not so different. I will work exactly how I did before. I have the same motivation than for the start and also the same trust in the Kronos Racing team. We begin the second part of the season with a lead in the Manufacturers championship thanks to everyone's work. I am convinced it will continue. Personally, I will try to achieve a good result and if I think I have the right feeling, I might also take some risks unlike before as I always gave priority to scoring points for the Kronos Total Citroën team..."

Good to know...

- www.kronosracing.com

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About this article
Series WRC
Drivers Marcus Gronholm , Sébastien Loeb , Daniel Elena , Marc Marti , Stéphane Prévot
Teams Citroën World Rally Team