A kangaroo’s jump into the unknown
- 1st September 2009, 9:08am
The tenth round of the 2009 calendar takes Citroen Total WRT to the other side of the planet for Rally Australia, a fixture which has switched to a new venue this year and which consequently represents virgin territory for the team and its WRC rivals. Sebastien Loeb and Daniel Elena will have just one aim during the new-look event, and that will be to return to their winning ways with a view to keeping their chances of scoring a sixth consecutive world title alive.
Dani Sordo and Marc Marti are just as motivated and have demonstrated on several occasions recently that they are capable of rivalling with the world's best crews on every type of surface, a claim they will be keen to confirm in Australia.
Having been organised from 1989 until 2006 near Perth, on the west shores of the continent, this year's Rally Australia marks something of a revolution following its switch to New South Wales, some 3,600km from Western Australia. The host town for the new event is the small town of Kingscliff on the Tasmanian Sea coast.
The event is consequently brand new for both Citroen Total World Rally Team's crews, just as it will be for their opponents, and Dani Sordo is eager for action to begin: "I always enjoy discovering new places. Australia is a dream for many because there are few destinations which are further away from Europe. I can't wait to get back behind the wheel of my car. Even though I've been enjoying myself since Rally Finland, I never tire of driving my C4! I only contested Rally Australia once when it was based in Perth, and I don't have a particularly fond memory of that because my gearbox broke on the first stage. I really don't know what to expect this time round, although I do know that the stages won't be carpeted with the small round stones which used to make the Perth-based event so difficult..."
As his podium finishes in Portugal, Argentina and Poland testify, the young Spaniard is now in a position to challenge the very best WRC drivers on the loose: "As usual, I will try to go as quickly as possible! Citroen has a lead of 14 points in the Manufacturers' World Championship standings and my objective in Australia will be to keep the same sort of gap in order to ease the pressure going into the last two rounds. Obviously, if the situation arises, I will also do all I can to help Seb in his bid to win the Driver's title..."
Sebastien Loeb won the 2004 Rally Australia and is targeting the same sort of result this year: "Our goal is to win, or at least finish ahead of Mikko Hirvonen. As the situation stands at the moment, the way the championship finishes is in my hands. If I win the last three rallies, I will be the World Champion. My mission will become somewhat more complex, however, if Mikko beats me just once!
This weekend's event promises to be extremely close because Mikko is particularly strong on fast gravel, especially when the stages are new to everyone. The way recce goes will be vital, not only in terms of the precision of our pacenotes but also regarding the quality of the information we are able to provide the team in order to decide on the best set-up for the start. I feel rested after the recent four-week break and I have nothing against this sort of relaxed rhythm, but it is always a little bit harder to get back into the swing after a month without driving competitively."
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