Fifth for Atkinson in Rally Ireland
- 2nd February 2009, 9:21am
With two cars placed in the top six of the Rally Ireland, the Citroen Junior Team has made a successful debut on the World Rally Championship.
On their first rally with a Citroen C4 WRC, Chris Atkinson and Stephane Prevot have finished fifth. Sebastien Ogier and Julien Ingrassia were right behind them in sixth. Conrad Rautenbach and Daniel Barritt score a point for the manufacturers championship.
For the first time since the start of the Rally Ireland, the sun made an appearance over Sligo. The roads were damp in the morning, but progressively dried out over the course of the day. Continuing a tried and tested solution from Friday, the three Citroen Junior Team crews carried on using Pirelliâ€™s Sottozero snow tyres.
On the first loop of three stages close to Sligo, Chris Atkinson managed to overhaul Henning Solberg to claim fourth place. "Weâ€™ve achieved our objective, but the conditions are still really marginal, " he said. "Even through thereâ€™s no standing water, the roads are still damp and there are a lot of traps to get sucked into."
During the second loop of stages, Atkinson continued to use the Pirelli Sottozero snow tyres while his rival chose Pirelliâ€™s PZero asphalt tyres. The duel came to an end on Donegal Bay (SS18).
"I braked too late, " admitted the Australian. "Consequently we lost a minute. Fourth place would have been a good result but Iâ€™m not going to be disappointed by a top five placing on such a difficult event. I was still learning the Citroen C4 WRC on this rally. The car was quick and reliable, and the Citroen Junior Team helped me to make a lot of progress with it. I hope to drive the car again very soon !"
Sebastien Ogier and Julien Ingrassia started the day sixth but experienced intercom difficulties in the first loop of stages. Even though he was already suffering with the flu, Julien had to make an extra big effort to read out the notes !
"The stages were really dirty," said Sebastien. "Up to now, the rain had been cleaning the roads. Today, the mud that was dragged onto the road by other competitors was just staying on the line. This made it really important to be careful and not get caught out."
On only his second rally with the Citroen C4 WRC, the Equipe de France FFSA driver put in an excellent performance to finish sixth. Having accumulated as much experience as possible, the reigning Junior World Rally Champion was happy with his result.
"We learnt so much over the 350 competitive kilometres," he said. "We discovered a completely new environment, a brand new rally, and coped with horrendous conditions running behind the top drivers. Every rally we finish is a mine of information for us. Itâ€™s a huge satisfaction for us to get to the finish and score some points."
Having re-started the rally this morning, Conrad Rautenbach took some time to get back into the swing of things. "I didnâ€™t have a very good feeling," he reported. "Maybe that was as a result of going off yesterday. I just concentrated on my driving in order to try not to make any mistakes. Weâ€™re going to work with the team now to make the car a little more comfortable for me and give me a bit more confidence."
At the end of the rally, Conrad scores a point for the Citroen Junior Team. "We worked well with the team to adapt the car to my driving style. On Friday we got off to a good start with the right tyre choice and some encouraging times. Itâ€™s a good omen for the rest of the season."
With all three Citroen C4 WRCs at the rally finish, Benoit Nogier can draw a very positive conclusion for the Citroen Junior Team.
"The global result is remarkable," he pointed out. "We didnâ€™t have the slightest technical problem, which underlines the excellent reliability of the C4 WRC. Chrisâ€™s fifth position is an excellent result, and we hope that he will be back with the Citroen Junior Team soon as he has shown that he can mix it with the best drivers in the world. Sebastien and Conrad learnt a lot and made plenty of progress over the weekend. Over the course of the three days, Sebastien set some very promising times given the conditions. For a driver who is still learning the car, it was an excellent performance."
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