Citroen targeting the championship double in Wales True to tradition, the grand finale of this year's World Rally Championship will take crews to Great Britain for the Wales Rally GB, the 15th and ultimate encounter of the season which will...
Citroen targeting the championship double in Wales
True to tradition, the grand finale of this year's World Rally Championship will take crews to Great Britain for the Wales Rally GB, the 15th and ultimate encounter of the season which will settle the outcome of the 2008 Manufacturers' title chase. Having made sure of the Drivers' crown with Sebastien Loeb/Daniel Elena* in Japan, the Citroen Total squad is particularly fired up as it bids to seal the championship double. C4 WRCs have been entered for the five-time World Champions* and their Spanish team-mates Dani Sordo/Marc Marti.
Two other C4 WRCs have been entered to contest the British round. They will be in the hands of Conrad Rautenbach/David Senior and of the recently-crowned Junior World Champions* Sebastien Ogier/Julien Ingrassia, and both will be prepared and run by PH Sport with the support of technical staff from Citroen Sport
The majority of the route of this year's Wales Rally GB, which provides a little more than 348km of competitive action divided into 19 stages, will take competitors north of the Swansea-based service park, and features several notable changes compared with recent years. These range from a re-mix of familiar forest territory in Resolfen and classics such as Crychan run in the opposite direction, as well as a return to Builth Wells for the first time in eight years. Indeed, the format of this season's edition and its early-December slot inevitably conjure up images of RAC Rallies of the past and the lingering use of the event's former name will rarely have been more justified. For there is every chance that the fast, flowing forest tracks of the region will be as muddy as ever, and the possibility of frost and snow cannot be ruled out. Nor can fog, which has a tendency to move in over the Black Mountains and which would confirm the event's reputation as one of world class rallying's most awesome challenges.
Team Citroen Total goes to Wales with an 11-point lead in the championship, a seemingly handsome cushion, yet a slender advantage, too, given the treacherous nature of the local stages. Ever since the creation of the Manufacturers' World Championship, the British round has frequently been the scene of dramatic turnarounds: should Citroen's sole rivals in the title chase finish first and second, the French team will need to harvest at least seven points if it wants to add its name to the WRC's roll-call of champions for the fourth time, and also make it a championship one-two following the Drivers' crown secured by Daniel Elena and Sebastien Loeb in Japan.
Nobody will want to round off the season 2008 in style more than Loeb himself, especially after the busy month the Frenchman has just had trying his hand at new experiences: "I've hardly had time to catch my breath since Japan," he muses. "The Wales Rally GB is an event I enjoy. The atmosphere is always very special, especially on the stages run in semi-darkness. The terrain is also highly specific, and never easy. The muddy conditions can produce differing levels of grip from one corner to the next, while other portions can be impressively fast and technically challenging, especially given how little grip there is... when there is grip!"
"It's a rally I've never won for a variety of reasons and I would dearly like to win it one day," confesses Sebastien. "That probably won't be our priority this time round, however. Winning the Manufacturers' title is important for Citroen and we will do all we can to make that happen. That will mean defending our current 11-point lead, steering clear of all the pitfalls and finishing as close to our rivals as we can."
For their third attempt at this rally together, Dani Sordo and Marc Marti know that the entire team will be counting on them once again. "We will be trying harder than ever to score a top result in Wales," says Dani. "I haven't got all that much experience of this event, but that doesn't stop me from being something of a fan. It's such a varied rally and the stages aren't too tough on the cars."
"What I dislike the most is the fog," adds the Spaniard. "At night, when the only thing you can see in front of you is a white wall, it really isn't easy. It takes a big effort to push yourself to go faster. On top of that, if you add rain or even snow into the equation, then it's nothing short of a nightmare... but that's what makes it such a legendary event! Winning the Manufacturers' title in Wales would be the best reward I can think of."