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Rally and Endurance

Monday 25th July 2011


The Citroën Total World Rally Team will head to the land of the ‘Flying Finns’ this weekend to begin the second half of the 2011 WRC season. One of the toughest tests on the calendar, and traditionally a stronghold for the Scandinavian drivers, the French crews of Sébastien Loeb/Daniel Elena and Sébastien Ogier/Julien Ingrassia will be aiming to continue their run of victories and build on the team’s 55 point lead in the manufacturer standings.

Citroën has conquered the 1000 Lakes before, with a first victory dating back to 1962 when Pauli Toivonen and Jaakko Kallio won in a Citroën DS19. Sébastien Loeb and Daniel Elena scored their first victory on the ultra-quick Finnish roads in 2008. Seven Citroën crews have entered for this round of the WRC to take on the horde of Finnish drivers, including Kimi Räikkönen in the ICE1 Racing Citroën DS3 WRC.

“We’re going to be up against highly-motivated rivals who are ready to defend their territory,” said Sébastien Loeb who has scored 146 points so far this season. “The titles at the end of the season are still our main priority. Victory in Finland isn’t an out-and-out objective. Depending on how I feel I’ll see how hard I want to push. So far I’ve felt very much at ease on gravel in the DS3 WRC. If that’s how I feel in Finland, it’ll give my confidence an extra boost!”

But the winner of the 2008 rally tones down his words: “It’s not my favourite terrain. Maybe these roads don’t suit my natural style of driving. On the other hand the Finns are very much at home on them. They probably feel they’re taking fewer risks in an environment they know like the back of their hand. I remember that I had to give 200% to win this rally.”

Sébastien Ogier and Julien Ingrassia made a big impression on their first outing in the event in a WRC in 2009. Last year they drove a perfect rally and finished second, only ten seconds behind the winner.

“I’m going to do everything I can to be on the pace right from the first stage,” says Sébastien Ogier, who has scored 124 points in seven rallies. “It’s important to bag a big haul of points in Finland. We know it’s going to be a difficult rally against local drivers who are always a force on their home turf. But a victory here isn’t beyond our grasp. My aim is to put myself in a confident frame of mind right from the green light and to really push in the opening kilometres. That’s what was missing last year.”

Rally Finland has a slightly out-of-sync schedule and will begin on Thursday 28 July with three stages of around forty timed kilometres. On Friday and Saturday two legs of 134 and 140 kilometres will sort out the drivers. The Power Stage will be held on Saturday 30th July.

Sébastien Loeb and Kimi Raikkonen alternated behind the wheel of the DS3 WRC for the Red Bull Road show which took place on Sunday 24 July on the Esplanad in Helsinki.

Three questions to Sébastien Ogier

Seven rallies, three victories and third place in the World Championship. How would you assess the first half of the season?

“I’ve scored three victories, but in one event I came away empty-handed, which cost us dearly. Overall, though, the championship’s got off to a good start. With the exception of Sardinia, we’ve always been in the running for victory. We’re still in with a fair chance of winning the title at the end of the season. It’s very important to make a good start to the second half of the year. Next up are three tarmac rallies. It’ll be a tough task as I’m up against my team-mate, but it’s a great challenge for me.”

It’s your fourth outing in Finland. The roads seem to suit you…

“In 2008, we came to test the waters in a Citroën C2-R2. In 2009, it was a different story with the Citroën C4 WRC. We fought right till the end with the best local privateers and we set a fastest time in the second day. Last year was our first rally in the Citroën Total World Rally Team, and we finished second, ten seconds behind the winner. You need a certain amount of experience in this rally to really get to grips with the roads and avoid the traps. I like the layout of the stages and the high speeds.”

Do you feel ready to beat the Finns on home turf?

Julien and I are motivated like never before. We know it’s going to be one of the most difficult rallies of the year as we’re up against the Finns. But beating them isn’t impossible. Last year, I was a bit surprised to finish so close to the winner. And we lost the ten seconds at the start of the rally when we were finding our marks.”
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