New challenge for Citroen
- 6th October 2006, 9:42am
The Belgian team, currently leading the ‘Manufacturers’ rankings, is firmly decided to face up to this real tough break and has chosen to enter British team-mates Colin McRae and Nicky Grist to drive the number 1 Xsara. Dani Sordo/Marc Marti are the second nominated crew to score points as since Germany. Xevi Pons and Carlos Del Barrio take the start behind the wheel of the 2005 Xsara with active differentials.
Colin McRae has been Sébastien and Daniel’s team-mates in 2003 and has contributed - with Carlos Sainz as well – to the Xsara’s fast progress on gravel. The Scot has an excellent knowledge of the car. He was able to update this knowledge and to discover the passive differentials version during a test session organised by Citroën Sport’s development team this week in Great-Britain.
Colin takes his 146th start in world rallying in Turkey and records 25 wins. In 1995, he became the youngest world rally champion of history. His Australian comeback last November has shown he has lost nothing of his legendary attack and that his speed remains as remarkable.
Located in between Greece and Cyprus, the Turkish round makes it the final of this year’s trilogy of hot and rough Mediterranean fixtures. Its route crosses a superb natural decor with the sea on one side and the balneal town of Kemer, and the impressive Bey Daðlari Mountains on the other side. In between the special stages wind through a plateau dominating the Mediterranean Sea just like a balcony. The stages reach an average altitude of a thousand meters with a maximum at 1800 m in ‘Pergé SS1/4’.
There are also some interesting downhill speed-tests, but generally speaking they are less slow and less rough than in Cyprus, even if they can be ‘classified’ in the rough gravel category. Usually the road surface is compacted by the organisers before hand but it is never completely stable. This gives a gravel layer on top of the surface to be cleaned, with a possible apparition of stones and in case of rain a very slippery ground. As an example last year the ‘Pergé’ stage has presented on the first passage a dozen kilometres of thick and sticky mud.
As far as weather conditions are concerned, this year’s edition takes place in October, unlike for the previous years: a late February slot in 2003 and a move to late June in 2004 and 2005. If the tourist information advertise for a mild Mediterranean weather at that time of the year, it also recommends warm clothes for those willing to experience a walk through the mountains. It’s a common knowledge that the proximity between warm sea and mountains leads to changing weather conditions. This could make tyre choices very tricky in Kemer…considering the fact that the actual stages take place some thousand meters higher.
This will be anything but an easy job. However, the Kronos Total Citroën WRT has some good cards in hands. The Xsara WRC is at ease in Turkey: it won the three world editions of the event and it showed in Cyprus a performing pace after the last rough gravel tests in Spain. With the valuable help of BFGoodrich and Météo France, the team usually does wise tyre choice. On top of that, the motivation is multiplied with what happened to Sébastien and deprives the team for a short while of its charismatic leader.
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