Citroen heads east WRC newcomer Rally Poland promises to be an important fixture for Citroen Total World Rally Team. Both the team and its best-placed crew Sebastien Loeb/Daniel Elena will start the eighth round of the 2009 FIA World Rally ...
Citroen heads east
WRC newcomer Rally Poland promises to be an important fixture for Citroen Total World Rally Team. Both the team and its best-placed crew Sebastien Loeb/Daniel Elena will start the eighth round of the 2009 FIA World Rally Championship at the top of their respective points tables, but they will be eager to return to their winning ways with a view to extending their cushion over their rivals. Similarly, Dani Sordo and Marc Marti will be out to capitalise on their progress to score a podium finish.
After being one of the mainstay rounds of the European Championship for many years, Rally Poland has this year gained full WRC status. Based in Mikolajki, north of Warsaw, it takes place close to Poland's borders with Belarus and Lithuania, so a large number of rally fans from eastern Europe where the sport is hugely popular are likely to profit from prospect of WRC action to make the trip to Mikolajki. For the record, the inaugural Rally Poland was organised in 1921 and the event was included as a qualifying round of the 1973 World Championship.
Just as they will be for the majority of their fellow competitors, the Polish stages will be new to the two Citroen Total World Rally Team crews, although Sebastien Loeb and Dani Sordo were each able to get in two days of testing near Mikolajki before the start. "I haven't seen much of the country for the moment," admits Sebastien Loeb, "but I plan to make up for that on the weekend before the start, since Citroen has organised a road show in the streets of Warsaw on the Sunday afternoon. I hope the atmosphere will be as electric as it was in Buenos Aires a few weeks back! During testing, I got a chance to drive the C4 WRC in both dry and wet conditions. The stages are quite fast and not too rough, so they should be interesting. I think we should enjoy ourselves."
"It's a bit like Finland, but narrower, and with fewer jumps," continues Dani Sordo. "The surface is softer, too, with a high number of sandy portions. I like sandy conditions and I think it has the makings of being a great event."
Neither crew had particularly successful runs in Sardinia or Greece. As a consequence, Sebastien Loeb is now just seven points clear of Mikko Hirvonen in the Drivers' standings, while the gap between Citroen and Ford at the top of the Manufacturers' table has been whittled down to 15 points. "That obviously puts additional pressure on our shoulders," recognises Seb. "Our season got off to a flying start, but the last two rallies haven't gone quite so well. It would be a pity to throw everything away."
"Personally, I can't wait to get back behind the wheel of my C4 to try to put the disappointment I suffered in Greece behind me," adds Dani. "I really felt I could have won the Acropolis Rally; everything seemed to be flowing so naturally. It's now up to us to bounce back, while at the same time bearing in mind that Citroen is above all in need of Manufacturers' points."
The windscreen sunstrips of the two C4 WRCs that will contest Rally Poland will feature two Chinese characters which quite simply translate as 'C4' and which are intended to highlight the model's outstanding results on the Chinese market.
Three questions to... Sebastien Loeb
Referring back to your roll on the Acropolis Rally a moment, was it something you tried to put out of your mind as soon as possible, or did you attempt to understand why it occurred?
"Without being overly obsessive about it, I have tried to understand what happened. It's only natural, because nobody wants to make the same mistake twice. We went off on a stage which we had never done competitively before. There was a place where I wanted to make a correction to my notes, and just after that I clipped the rock which sent us into a roll. I don't know whether I took my eye off the ball for a few tenths of a second; I haven't really got an explanation, but I don't think I was pushing excessively hard. I have done plenty of stages before where I was far more foot to the floor than I was at that moment."
The TV images are pretty spectacular, yet you and Daniel escaped without a scratch...
"That's right. I didn't even have a sore neck the following morning! That said, the impact wasn't that big, and we didn't roll end over end. The safety equipment did its job perfectly, too. The roll cage absorbed the energy, and my 'eared' bucket seats also held my head firmly in place. At the end of the day, not only is the C4 WRC competitive and reliable, but it is also extremely strong!"
Rally Poland is new to the championship. What will your approach be?
"We will only be able to do two passes in recce, so we will need to be particularly focused when making our pacenotes. All the terrains we visit in the course of the World Championship have their own specific features, so it is important to try to get a feel for the stages and their potential pitfalls. This is vital if you want to reach the finish in a strong position. The fewer corrections you need to make to your notes once the event has started, the easier it is! As usual, I will try to find the pace at which I feel the most comfortable to begin with, and then see where we stand compared with the opposition."