Citroen Junior Team set for Mexico debut Following the wintery conditions of the Rally Sweden, the Citroen Junior Team now changes continent and surface to contest the first gravel round of the 2010 FIA World Rally Championship season. Sebastien...
Citroen Junior Team set for Mexico debut
Following the wintery conditions of the Rally Sweden, the Citroen Junior Team now changes continent and surface to contest the first gravel round of the 2010 FIA World Rally Championship season. Sebastien Ogier/Julien Ingrassia and Kimi Raikkonen/Kaj Lindstrom will drive the team's two Citroen C4 WRCs.
Having appeared on the World Rally Championship for the first time in 2004, the Leon-based event features the most concentrated rally route on the calendar this year. In fact, a full 354.60 kilometres out of a total route length of only 884.58 kilometres are run competitively. Another peculiarity of Rally Mexico is that competitors will be driving at an altitude of almost 2800 metres at one point on the opening day (Ortega, SS2 and SS6). Citroen comes into the event fresh from three consecutive victories in Mexico, between 2006 and 2008. Nonetheless, the Rally Mexico will be an all-new experience for the Citroen Junior Team, which goes there for the first time.
Sebastien Ogier and Julien Ingrassia, who finished a brilliant fifth on the season-opening Rally Sweden, have some fond memories of their first visit to Mexico. In 2008, Rally Mexico marked the French crew's World Rally Championship debut. They got their Junior World Rally Championship campaign off to a flying start with a momentous win.
"It was a career-defining moment," remembered Sebastien. "I've got some very happy memories of Mexico. We had a lot to learn, but in the end we were able to win after a rally where we were forced to attack in order to gain an advantage, but then also moderate our pace in order to look after the car. I really like this rally as the stages are very flowing and progressive. The fans are especially enthusiastic in Mexico as well!"
Since making their World Rally Championship debut two years ago, Sebastien and Julien have climbed onto the overall podium (thanks to second place in Greece last year) and finished eighth in the 2009 World Rally Championship for drivers. In Sweden, their fifth place ensured that they beat several local Scandinavian specialists. So in Mexico, the French duo's objective will be to at least equal that result.
"We started the season well, with a top-five finish on our first visit to Sweden," added Sebastien. "Our objective is to maintain this same pace throughout the season and get closer to the podium on the events that we know a bit already. "In Mexico, we start off with the advantage of having already driven eight of the 11 different stages in the C2 Super 1600. On top of that, we were able to prepare for this rally with a day of testing in Spain. If there's a chance of finishing higher than fifth, we're certainly going to go for it!"
Kimi Raikkonen and Kaj Lindstrom will continue their learning curve on the gravel of Mexico. Following their first rally on the snowy tracks of Sweden in February, the Finnish crew now faces a new challenge on a very different surface.
"What I love about rallying is that you have to be competitive on all sorts of different surfaces," said Kimi. "After my experience on snow, now I'm going to find out about driving on gravel. I really don't know what to expect, but that is all part of our learning process. I'm very much looking to driving the Citroen C4 WRC in these challenging conditions and getting as many kilometres under my belt as I can, in order to add to my experience."
Three questions to... Kimi Raikkonen
Looking back on it now, what conclusions can you draw from your first event in the World Rally Championship with the Citroen Junior Team C4 WRC?
"The really positive thing is that we managed to cover all the stages on the Rally Sweden and we learned a lot. We could have done better overall had it not been for some small mistakes but we managed to improve our stage times as the rally went on. That was our initial objective. The second run through the stages was better for us. I also felt a big difference once I became more confident with my pace notes. With more experience, things should get increasingly easier."
Mexico will be the first time that you drive the Citroen C4 WRC on gravel. Do you think that you will find this surface easier than snow?
"I'm really looking forward to starting the Rally Mexico. My impression is that driving on gravel should be a little bit easier for us. Or at least that's what Marcus Gronholm told me! I reckon that we will find a more consistent level of grip on gravel. But for the moment I'm still lacking experience. I just need to get more kilometres in the car in order to get used to the Citroen C4 WRC in particular and rallying in general."
How are you going to approach the Rally Mexico?
"My plan had initially been to take part in a test session on gravel, in order to get to know the Citroen C4 WRC a bit better on a new surface for me. But unfortunately I experienced a bit of back pain that stopped me from driving. I've had some treatment now but I preferred to rest before leaving for Mexico. Of course I would have liked to test the car before going, but it was important to recuperate in order to start the second rally of the season in the best possible physical shape."