Citroen Junior Team off to a solid start With Sebastien Ogier and Julien Ingrassia in third followed by Kimi Raikkonen and Kaj Lindstrom in seventh, the Citroen Junior Team has shown its competitiveness on the opening day of the Rallye de France...
Citroen Junior Team off to a solid start
With Sebastien Ogier and Julien Ingrassia in third followed by Kimi Raikkonen and Kaj Lindstrom in seventh, the Citroen Junior Team has shown its competitiveness on the opening day of the Rallye de France Alsace. The French crew are aiming for a podium while the Finns are brilliantly placed just behind the top six drivers in the World Rally Championship.
After a rainy but extremely popular ceremonial start at the Place Kleber in Strasbourg yesterday evening, the real action on the Rallye de France Alsace got underway this morning. The opening day of eight special stages took the WRC crews to Colmar and then Mulhouse for 145.86 competitive kilometres to the south of the region. While the skies stayed clear throughout the morning, overnight rain meant that the roads were still damp.
Sebastien Ogier and Julien Ingrassia set off from Strasbourg second on the road, and they soon found stages that were already very dirty after the first car had been through. "There was only Seb (Loeb) in front of us, but the line was already quite muddy," commented Sebastien at the crowded remote service halt in Mulhouse. "You really have to walk a tightrope to keep the car on the right line and maintain a good pace at the same time. I imagine that this will be even more difficult for the cars behind us." Kaj Lindstrom, Kimi Raikkonen's co-driver, drew the same conclusion a few moments later. "I've rarely seen conditions like this," he said. "Even though we were expecting a very slippery surface, we were really skating on mud in the end. It's not the best way to build up confidence, but it's certainly a new experience for Kimi."
Having claimed second place from the opening stage, Sebastien Ogier first fended off an attack from Petter Solberg and then went head-to-head with Dani Sordo in the afternoon to end the day on the provisional podium. "There was mud everywhere...I've never driven in conditions like this on asphalt," he reported. "There was absolutely no grip! I'm happy with our pace although Sebastien (Loeb) is definitely quicker. We're going to keep on pushing hard in order to stay on the podium."
Kimi Raikkonen continued his progress in particularly difficult circumstances. The Finn never loosened his hold on seventh place throughout the day, behind six drivers who were uncatchable, but ahead of all his usual rivals. "It's really not easy," explained Kimi. "Maybe we were too careful in some places but at least we were consistent. These kilometres are very important for us to build up experience. Tomorrow we're going to continue at this pace and see if we can get closer to the times of the frontrunners."
Team manager Benoit Nogier concluded: "Sebastien took advantage of a favourable road position to get stuck into the fight at the front. It's more than satisfactory to see him ahead of Petter Solberg as this shows that he has made a lot of progress on asphalt. While the conditions worked in favour of Sebastien, they certainly worked against Kimi. He had to drive in conditions that often resembled a rainy rallycross track more than a circuit! But despite these problems, he showed many of his qualities today: above all the consistency that underlines his progress."