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As the new team on the block the Citroen Australia pairing of Adrian Coppin and Tony Sullens knew they have a near vertical hill to climb heading into the 2014 East Coast Bullbars Australian Rally Championship. After the opening two Rounds the pair spoke about their desire to start closing the gap to the leading drivers.

“I’m always looking at the other drivers stage times because no matter what time I’ve set I always want to close the gap,” admitted Coppin when asked if it was fair to look at the stage times of Brendan Reeves and Scott Pedder, and then compare those outright times with those being set by the Citroen duo.
“It is too early to compare though, everything is still so new for me, for Tony and for the entire Citroen team. When you consider just how much experience guys like Brendan and Scott have between them, it’s just not fair on yourself to be trying to their times versus our times,” he added.
For Sullens the journey so far this year was even more difficult than Adrian’s. For the man from the NSW Central Coast it was both his first time driving front-wheel drive and his first time in the left hand seat.
“I don’t think people appreciate just how committed the two guys at the front of the field are. They spend an incredible amount of time looking at their old videos, reading their old pace notes, they have past experience on those roads, and all of that is impossible to replicate,” explained Tony, quizzed on how much knowledge plays a part in outright speed.
“I’m never going to make excuses, we are off their pace, but we also know where we need to improve and every rally we’re trying to bridge that gap. For me this year was always about baby steps, about building the experience in myself and the car.”
“Look at Brendan, he spent last year doing the same and now he’s using that to his advantage,” Sullens continued.
“Of course you want to compare how you’re performing against Brendan and Scott, they are the two best rally drivers in the country right now,” Coppin added. “But right now I put more emphasis on the great battle I’m having with my team mate.”
“You always want to beat your team mate, that’s natural. I think Tony has got to grips with the car really well, he’s made incredible progress after just two rallies for someone who had no front-wheel drive experience.”
Apart from getting quickly to grips with the Citroen DS3 Sullens also openly admits it hasn’t been a great start to the year for him. “I didn’t have a great run in either Canberra or WA, so I’m just hoping to go to Queensland and have a nice, smooth, trouble free event.”
“My brief was always to not do anything stupid in the first couple of rallies. There was no point going out there and turning the car into a tie wrapper,” said Sullens. “We’re running the car very conservatively, because the aim was to become better adjusted to the car and what it can do before worrying about outright speed.”
So where does Sullens think the biggest area for improvement will come? “I know my biggest fault it in the technical sections of stages, I’m just too used to throwing around a four-wheel drive car and using the power to get myself out of trouble. In these cars you can’t afford to do that.”
“All it takes is a quarter of a second lost not getting a corner right, a quarter second lost because you don’t have 100% confidence in your pace notes, and another quarter second lost due to experience and all that adds up very quickly at the end of a days rallying.”

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