Moscatt and Novikov ready for Portugal challenge
- 31st March 2009, 1:50pm
For the first time in its history, the Citroen Junior Team will face an event that is held entirely on gravel, the most common surface of the World Rally Championship. On the Vodafone Rally de Portugal, Evgeny Novikov/Dale Moscatt, Conrad Rautenbach/Daniel Barritt and Sebastien Ogier/Julien Ingrassia will once again be trying to get in amongst the points-scorers.
The fourth round of the 2009 World Rally Championship season is a real classic. Having returned to the calendar in 2007 but taken a year off in 2008, the Rally Portugal has been the scene of some of the most memorable moments in the history of the sport. The route runs through the south of the country, not far from Faro, and this year it offers an itinerary that is almost completely brand new. The stage is set for the Citroen Junior Team crews to demonstrate all their potential.
Just as was the case in Norway and in Cyprus, there will be three Citroen C4 WRCs at the start. The crews eligible to score manufacturer points will be Russian driver Evgeny Novikov, co-driven by Australian Dale Moscatt (no.7), and Zimbabwean Conrad Rautenbach, co-driven by Britain's Daniel Barritt. The all-French line-up of Sebastien Ogier and Julien Ingrassia will also be competing for the team in a third Citroen C4 WRC.
After finishing sixth on their most recent World Rally Championship event in Cyprus, Conrad Rautenbach and Daniel Barritt hope to continue to make progress in Portugal. Their performances during the final two gravel days of the Cypriot event have prompted them to aim still higher. " After finishing sixth in Cyprus, we want to do even better now " said Rautenbach. " A good result will come from putting in some good stage times. I'm going to try to steadily improve my times while making sure I get to the finish, in order to score points in both championships. "
Evgeny Novikov has delivered some truly noteworthy performances since the start of the season, so he too will start the rally with the same ambitions. " I'm beginning to build up a really good feeling with the Citroen C4 WRC " commented Novikov. " It's an extremely competitive car. My goal is to gain a little more experience and reach the finish, while putting in a few good stage times. "
Sebastien Ogier and Julien Ingrassia came within a couple of hundred metres of a good result in Cyprus. Nonetheless, the reigning Junior World Rally Champion is keen to put his accident behind him. " We've got to keep on working hard " he concluded. " I believe we're making progress with every rally. Portugal will be our first `normal' event. I'm aiming just to get to the finish there without making any mistakes, in order to concentrate completely on my driving.
Three questions for... Conrad Rautenbach
What can you conclude from the Cyprus Rally and your first points of the season?
"Just finishing a rally as tricky as Cyprus is already a good result. But to score points for the team and also for ourselves in the drivers' championship is naturally very encouraging in view of the rest of the season. So it was a very satisfying sixth place for us in Cyprus, even though our team mates were forced to retire on the final day. These are things that just happen in rallying though."
You've been driving the Citroen C4 WRC for a year now. What progress have you made in the last 12 months?
"We've taken a big step forwards already but we're continuing to learn all the time. Throughout the last year the car has received a number of small evolutions and I understand the Citroen C4 WRC and the way it behaves better and better now. I'm feeling increasingly confident behind the wheel. It's an exceptional car that requires a bit of time to fully master."
You've had some previous experience of the Rally Portugal with a Citroen C2 Super 1600. Do you think that this experience gained in 2007 will be useful to you this year?
"To be honest I actually think that we are going to end up re-writing all our pace notes. Practically the entire rally is brand new. On the bits that we know already from the past, the scenery is going to go by much quicker in the Citroen C4 WRC. But having participated on the rally in the past definitely offers a small gain, just in terms of experience of the roads. Portugal is an event with a lot of history behind it and there's always a fantastic atmosphere."
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