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On its third appearance on the World Championship calendar, Rally Poland marks the mid-way point of the 2014 season. Extensively overhauled since the 2009 rally, the route now includes Lithuania, a country that has never before hosted the WRC.Two DS3 WRCs have been entered by the Citroën Total Abu Dhabi World Rally Team for Mads Østberg/Jonas Andersson and Kris Meeke/Paul Nagle.

 

 CITROËN AND RALLY POLAND: A LONG HISTORY

Rally Poland is the second oldest road race still held today. Created a few years after Monte-Carlo, it is celebrating its 71st anniversary in 2014. Between 1938 and 1956, Polish crews secured four category wins in Citroën cars. When the Manufacturers’ World Championship was set up in 1973, Rally Poland was part of the programme. A second appearance in 2009 saw another Citroën finish on the podium as Dani Sordo and Marc Marti finished as runners-up in their C4 WRC.

FAIRLY UNUSUAL TYPES OF ROADS

In addition to only featuring sporadically on the WRC calendar, Rally Poland also offers a profoundly different challenge to the other rounds in terms of the road surface. “We tend to think of the stages as being close in style to those in Finland,” explained Yves Matton, Citroën Racing Team Principal. ”But there are many other aspects. The ground is especially soft. The racing line becomes rutted and lines form pretty quickly. And there aren’t as many jumps. As it is an event that is back on the calendar after a five-year absence, experience will be less significant than on other rounds.”

The Citroën Total Abu Dhabi World Rally Team is already in Poland this weekend to run test sessions. This will give Didier Clément, Chief Operations Engineer for the DS3 WRCs, the opportunity to assess how the road surface changes as more cars come through the stages: “The aim is to find solutions so that we can provide our drivers with a car that inspires confidence. The stages are so quick that the car has to be particularly precise. We have been working with the shock absorber diagrams and the combination of springs and anti-roll bars to get the results we’re after.”

The road surface will also force the team to alter the set-up of the DS3 WRC at each service: “There are really two distinct parts; the roads will be flowing and fast on the first runs and very rutted on the second runs. Each time, we’ll have to adjust the ride height to avoid the car from scraping too much on the ruts. Where there are lines, the drivers will have to make use of them and manage not to get carried away. They’ll need to drive aggressively to get out of the ruts if they feel it is necessary. But it never comes easily.”

MADS ØSTBERG UPS THE PACE

Runner-up in Sardinia, Mads Østberg has now finished on the podium three times in his last five outings. Increasingly comfortable in the Citroën DS3 WRC, he will be tackling a completely different surface in Poland: ”I feel full of confidence. We’re on a positive trend. I feel very good in the Citroën Total Abu Dhabi World Rally Team and we are making progress all the time.”

The Norwegian first competed in this rally in 2009, the last time the WRC came to Poland: ”I have some very good memories of the rally, even it wasn’t easy. I really like fast rallies. That seems to be the main feature of this race. I think the average speeds will be even higher than in Finland. The gravel is a bit softer and there are a lot fewer jumps. Some sections are pretty narrow, but you have to keep as much speed as possible.”

As has been the case all season, Mads starts the rally with the same goal of finishing on the podium: “For the time being, we need to focus on testing, which will take place just before recce starts. It will definitely be very intense because we’ll have to get to grips with the car on these kinds of roads. The gaps will very undoubtedly be very narrow and there’ll be plenty of contenders. We’ll have to push from the word go on the first stage to get among the front-runners!”

GOAL REMAINS THE SAME FOR KRIS MEEKE

Although he wasn’t here in 2009, Kris Meeke has competed at Rally Poland once before. Back in 2006, he enjoyed his first outing in the Citroën C2-R2. “It was a great experience; it was part of the promotion campaign for the car. Winning the two-wheel drive category is still an excellent memory,” recalled Kris.

Unlike the earlier rounds of the championship, Kris Meeke won’t suffer as much through his lack of knowledge of the event: “The stages are relatively new to everyone. When you’re driving as quickly as we will be doing here, you need to pay even more attention during recce.”

Currently seventh in the drivers’ championship, with two podium finishes, Kris Meeke is not putting himself under pressure to get a particular result: “We used Rally Sardinia to rack up a few more miles in the car. Once again, we’ll be applying the same strategy. There is no question of taking any unnecessary risks. I hope I can get through the rally without any mistakes and without any problems. If we manage that, we should be on the pace and the result will take care of itself!”

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