First 2010 title clincher for Loeb and Elena Rally Japan, the tenth of the thirteen rounds of the 2010 FIA World Rally Championship could prove decisive for the attribution of the World Drivers' title. Sebastien Loeb and Daniel Elena are having...
First 2010 title clincher for Loeb and Elena
Rally Japan, the tenth of the thirteen rounds of the 2010 FIA World Rally Championship could prove decisive for the attribution of the World Drivers' title. Sebastien Loeb and Daniel Elena are having their best season since 2006, and they could win the crown in Asia. As in Finland, the Citroen Total World Rally Team will give its second C4 WRC to Sebastien Ogier and Julien Ingrassia, who will be having their first taste of the stages on the island of Hokkaido.
After missing a year, Rally Japan is back on the WRC calendar. This event has a very special ambience because of the change of scenery for the European teams, and the enthusiasm of the Japanese fans for the world rally stars. Like previous years, the rally will be based in Sapporo on Hokkaido island. The route has been given a revamp for this event with several new stages.
Rallye Japan has good memories for the Citroen Total World Rally Team. In addition to a victory in 2006, Sebastien Loeb and Daniel Elena clinched the 2005 and 2008 world titles in the event. at this stage of the 2010 season, five drivers, including four at the wheel of a Citroen, are mathematically in with a chance of winning the drivers' title: Sebastien Loeb, leader with 191 points, Sebastien Ogier (133), Jari- Matti Latvala (117), Petter Solberg (102) and Dani Sordo (95). At the end of the event, Sebastien Loeb will win the title if he has a 75-point lead over his rivals. In short, if the six-time world champion racks up his 60th victory it will give him the title, provided Ogier does no better than sixth.
"Before that happens there's still a lot of ground to cover," says Loeb playing down his chances. "Like all the rounds of the World Rally Championship, Rally Japan has its particularities. To be quite honest, I can't say it's one of my favourite events. The stages aren't all that exciting and the fact that they're very narrow doesn't really encourage you to let rip behind the steering wheel! However, I think we'll be in pretty good shape with the C4 WRC. The car's reached the end of its development and we know the kind of setup to use on this type of surface."
Ogier and Ingrassia have been integrated into the Citroen Total World Rally Team as in Finland and Great Britain, and they will be making their debut in this event : "I've never set foot in Japan and I'm trying to engrave the stages on my mind by looking at the maximum amount of on-board footage. I have the impression that the vegetation hides the corners and the traps they contain," explains Ogier. "It's not going to be easy given our lack of experience, but we have the same aim as in all gravel rallies a place on the podium. That would help Citroen score good points for the Manufacturers' World Championship.
Concerning the drivers' one, I'm not under any illusions where the title's concerned. My aim is to hold on to second place and fend off Jari-Matti, Petter and Dani. Finishing in the runner-up spot against all these drivers would have been a dream at the start of the season. Now, it's up to us to make the dream come true!"
Three questions to Sebastien Loeb
Let's come back to your eighth consecutive victory in Germany. Are you going to reveal the secrets of your invincibility at last?
"There's no magic potion! Work's the secret. The team's never rested on its laurels. Even if we know this event very well, we prepared for it down to the last tee. For example, we did some reconnoitering near the military camp to test the tyres' durability on the long Panzerplatte stage. So I knew what rhythm to adopt to get a good performance out of my tyres without putting too much stress on them. Of course it's true that I feel pretty good on this type of surface. Right from the opening stage I can push really hard and get to grips with the race. But, quite honestly, there's no real secret."
Japan is a big change. How do you feel about this rally?
"Well, I can't say that the stages are my favourite part of the rally. What I like is the atmosphere, this feeling of being in another world for a few days. The spectators are really faithful fans and I recognize them from one year to the next. Thanks to the World Rally Championship, we can experience other cultures, and it's a good thing to go to Japan even if we don't race in the most beautiful landscapes of the archipelago."
You are often asked where you would like to win the title. Some even insist on the fact that you should win number seven in France. What's your opinion on this?
"I don't think you choose the place where you're going to win the title. All I want is to win as soon as possible and I'll do everything to achieve this. If I'm in the lead and Sebastien Ogier is only sixth, I'm certainly not going to slow down to put off the date. There's no sense in that. We work like crazy to obtain the best possible results. In any case, winning the title in Japan doesn't depend on me alone but also on the positions of the other contenders. Let sport roll the dice!"