An excellent result for CitroÃ«n The two Xsara WRCs driven by Carlos Sainz/Marc Marti and SÃ©bastien Loeb/Daniel Elena reached the finish line of the Finnish 'Gravel Grand Prix' in third and fourth places respectively. This result, in one of...
An excellent result for Citroën
The two Xsara WRCs driven by Carlos Sainz/Marc Marti and Sébastien Loeb/Daniel Elena reached the finish line of the Finnish 'Gravel Grand Prix' in third and fourth places respectively.
This result, in one of the most difficult events on the calendar, has allowed Citroën to only concede one point to its immediate rival in the Manufacturers' Championship, retaining a lead of 26 points. The situation was just as favourable in the Drivers' classification. Sébastien Loeb is currently 22 points ahead of Petter Solberg, while Carlos Sainz, after the 92nd podium finish during his career, has moved up into the group of four chasing for the lead.
Competing in Finland for only the third time, the Versailles-Satory-based team noted from the start of the event that some parameters concerning this unique rally remain difficult to control. At the end of the first group of special stages, on Friday, Carlos and Sébastien were lying in eighth and twelfth positions. Well served by their excellent knowledge of the terrain, the group of local specialists were well in the lead, driven by national pride. Sébastien had undertaken his now habitual job of opening the road, and the initial set-up of the Xsaras still needed to be fine-tuned.
The Citroën team can be brilliant, as it proved in Argentina. But it can also close ranks and work together when faced with contrary winds. After the first skirmishes, the team started a patient and continuous process of evaluation, minor changes and improvements, while both drivers showed pugnacity and patience, avoiding mistakes with care. This obstinate way of working soon began to show benefits. At the same time, the frantic pace adopted by the local heroes saw some of them drop by the wayside. Fifth and seventh on Friday, the Xsaras climbed up to third and fourth places by Saturday evening. The aim, during the third and final leg, was to maintain these excellent positions. And this was achieved, even if Sébastien had to clench his teeth to forget the pains in his back and neck, consequences of going off the road during testing for Germany.
"We suffered at the start of this rally," Guy Fréquelin conceded. "Over this terrain, it appears that you learn more during the race than in testing. We are conscious of the work that has to be done if we want to win here, which is something we want to do ! I am pleased with the way the team coped with this difficult 'match'. Our two cars reached the finish line, proving their reliability and the solidity of our line-ups. And how can you fail to be satisfied when you look at the classification of the two Championships ?"
"To finish on the podium after such a challenging rally, both physically and in terms of concentration, is a good result," Carlos Sainz commented. "Above and beyond the numbers, the thing that gives value to our final positions is the way the team worked together to find solutions to allow us to fight."
Tired but happy, Sébastien Loeb was pleased with the way the events turned out: "A good result for the team, very good for us. We now have a margin equal to two victories over Petter Solberg. When you think how close last year's championship was, you can only be happy. However, we will not relax. The forthcoming asphalt event was good for us in the last two years. We have to do everything to make sure it is the same this year too.."