"The Xsara is back !" Of course the road is still very long until the finish. And of course tomorrow's leg in the military camp of Baumholder is expected to be tricky, especially considering the weather forecasts. But tonight the CitroÃ«n team...
"The Xsara is back !"
Of course the road is still very long until the finish. And of course tomorrow's leg in the military camp of Baumholder is expected to be tricky, especially considering the weather forecasts.
But tonight the Citroën team is smiling : The Xsara is back in business with the qualities which delighted its drivers during the last tarmac events in 2001 : fast, efficient, and reliable.
The Citroën drivers set the pace in the first loop of three stages amongst the vineyards of the Mosel's hills. Sébastien Loeb and Daniel Elena came third in the first stage despite the engine stalling in a hairpin. Then, came a fastest time followed by five more ... Extremely satisfied with the Xsara's behaviour, the young Citroën driver dominated its prestigious rivals, surprising again the rally audience by its versatility and its serenity. "I was expecting a tough fight and I gave a full attack straight away. Except in SS6 and 8, where we did not take any risks, I drove almost 100%. For the while, everything is fine, I can only hope for a same day tomorrow..."
In car number 22, Philippe Bugalski and Jean-Paul Chiaroni shared the team's joy. At the first service in the Messepark of Trier, the Corsican co-driver was radiant with happiness : "Philippe drove cautiously in the first stage as usual. Even more cautiously after five months away from the competition. In SS2 and 3, we experienced some brake problems but we both know we possess the weapon to fight with the front-runners !"
Once the brake problems were solved, Philippe and Jean-Paul adopted the same pace as their young team-mates. The Xsaras also delivered a "one-two" stage time (SS5) before heading back to Trier in first and third positions.
This promising start naturally pleased Guy Fréquelin, even if the "Reds" boss deplored the retirement of the third Xsara, driven by "Chus" Puras and Marc Marti.
"The fact they retired due an electrical failure makes us think that we should not be delighted too fast. However, I am very satisfied : we identified and solved the problem we encountered in Catalunya. Sébastien and Philippe are clearly demonstrating how we've improved. "
Total, Michelin, Magneti-Marelli, OZ, AIS and Citroën Financement are Citroën's partners in the World Rally Championship.