The two Sebastiens ready to take up the Finnish challenge Three weeks after winning the Bulgarian Rally which was on the world championship calendar for the first time, the Citroen Total World Rally Team is preparing for an outing on more ...
The two Sebastiens ready to take up the Finnish challenge
Three weeks after winning the Bulgarian Rally which was on the world championship calendar for the first time, the Citroen Total World Rally Team is preparing for an outing on more familiar territory, that of the mythic Rally Finland. In the land of 1000 Lakes, the C4 WRCs will be driven by Sebastien Loeb / Daniel Elena and Sebastien Ogier / Julien Ingrassia, who, for the first time, will join the team currently leading the Manufacturers' Championship in the FIA World Rally Championship.
For the 60th anniversary of their event, the Finnish organisers have innovated by condensing the rally into a 2-day period - Friday and Saturday. Thus, the event will be run at an even more hectic pace than usual putting the resistance of man and machines to an even sterner test!
Victorious in 2008, Sebastien Loeb achieved a real feat by putting his name on the short list of drivers alongside Carlos Sainz and Didier Auriol from foreign countries who have won this rally. The six-time world champion, who finished second in 2009, is tackling this year's event in a humble frame of mind. "I really wanted to win this rally. Now that I've achieved this objective, I see things a bit differently. This year I'll be starting with sixty-five points in hand over Mikko Hirvonen. I can afford to control my lead as there are three more asphalt rallies to go this season. But that doesn't mean that I'm not going for the win! To do that, though, I have to feel completely at ease."
Rally Finland with its stages in the forests represents a very special test for the drivers: "Victory is generally just a question of seconds," Loeb goes on. "To win here you have to be in complete harmony with your car and your notes. You have to be able to really let go and attack each corner, almost as if you're overdoing it. When you've got this off to a tee, you can really throw the car and place it to take the perfect line in the corner."
For rally fans, the Rally of a 1000 Lakes is always associated with its famous jumps! But in Loeb's opinion the biggest difficulty of the event lies elsewhere. "You don't win the rally by jumping high and long, What's more important is what you find behind the jumps. It's crucial to position the car correctly to stay on the right line for the corner coming up after you land. Once you're in the air you can't make any adjustments! Year after year I fine-tune my notes with this aim in mind." While Loeb has already raced in the event ten times, Sebastien Ogier's experience is much more limited. The winner of Rally Portugal is having his first outing in the Citroen Total Rally Team and he will have to cope with some additional pressure: "Unlike the previous rounds I'm going to have to drive my rally in view of scoring points for the Manufacturers' World Championship title. The aim is a little different but the approach is the same.
Julien and I have done a lot of work preparing for this rally, and we'll do our very best. It's a difficult event with high average speeds and the trees are never too far from the road! It gives you a rush of adrenaline, but we like that; we're ready to take up the challenge and we're absolutely determined to show that we're worthy of the trust that's been placed in us.".
Three questions to Sebastien Ogier
You're going to carry the colours of the Citroen Total World Rally Team in Rally Finland. How do you feel about this promotion?
"Above all I feel proud and joyful. It's every driver's dream to join a works outfit one day. It was already more or less the case with the Citroen Junior Team, which gave me a top-class car to drive. But this represents a step up to the very top of the ladder as I'm joining the reigning world championship team. I'm happy even it means a little bit more pressure and greater expectations of me. I'm trying not to ask myself too many useless questions and I'm preparing for this rally like the previous ones."
Your first outing comes in a particularly difficult rally for foreign drivers. How are you going to make up for your lack of experience?
"I think I've lacked experience in all the rallies since the start of the season! It's true that Finland is one of the most difficult terrains, but I like this rally. Last year, I was happy just to be able to steadily up the pace to the extent that I set the fastest time in the third stage. It remains to be seen if I feel as good again in the opening stages this year. To help my confidence the team has scheduled three days of tests, which is an enormous boost.
What's your aim for this rally?
"That'll depend above all on the objectives the team sets for me. Since the start of the season we've shown that we can take the fight to the best on gravel. Even if it'll certainly be difficult, a podium would be a great result."