Perfect start to rally season for Citroen
- 2nd February 2009, 9:09am
CitroÃ«n C4 WRC crews SÃ©bastien Loeb/Daniel Elena and Dani Sordo/Marc Marti repeated their result on the 2007 Rally Ireland with another one-two finish today in Sligo. The former succeeded in taking control after the opening loop on Friday morning before gradually pulling clear of their chasers, while the five-time World Championsâ€™ Spanish team-mates tucked into their wake to hand CitroÃ«n a maximum points haul in the Manufacturers World Rally Championship.
Following two days of uninterrupted heavy rain, competitors were greeted by crisp dry, sunny weather in the north of Ireland for the final day of the rally. Tyre choices were once against a major topic of conversation in this morningâ€™s early service park in Sligo as crews pondered whether to continue with the Pirelli Sottozero snow tyres they had been using since Friday lunchtime or else switch to the PZero asphalt tyre? Based on the information available to them, CitroÃ«nâ€™s crews and engineers chose to stay on Sottozeros.
"If we had been looking for outright performance in this morningâ€™s damp conditions, we would no doubt have switched to the PZero," explains CitroÃ«n Sportâ€™s Operations Manager Didier ClÃ©ment. "However, given the lead SÃ©bastien and Dani enjoyed this morning, we were able to go for the safe option. Both our two have become accustomed to the grip provided by the Sottozeros on these stages and we all believe they were the best call..."
The third and final day of the event was divided into two phases, with an initial group of three stages in the immediate vicinity of Sligo (Geevagh, Arigna and Lough Hill), followed by two new tests in the Donegal region (Donegal Bay and Donegal Town).
On his return to the service park after the first loop, SÃ©bastien Loeb was pleased to have only dropped a handful of seconds to Mikko Hirvonen who had opted for PZero tyres: "To tell the truth, Iâ€™m a little surprised that we didnâ€™t lose more time to Mikko! I think snow tyres were a borderline choice for this morningâ€™s conditions, but I donâ€™t regret my decisionâ€¦"
Dani Sordo only dropped handful of seconds, too: "I think snow tyres were the best choice in the circumstances, even though they werenâ€™t ideally suited to the rapidly drying asphalt. Like yesterday, my main objective was to defend second place."
Thanks to their handsome cushion, both CitroÃ«n Total World Rally Team were both able to cruise through the two Donegal tests, with SÃ©bastien Loeb and Daniel Elena going on to secure their 13th consecutive sealed surface win, their 10th in the C4 WRC:
"Even though we werenâ€™t on the ideal rubber for the first loop, we were able to control from in front," commented the Frenchman. "Donâ€™t get me wrong; this weekendâ€™s win was no stroll. Given the delicate conditions, it was essential to have a car that was easy to drive and my C4 WRC was perfect from start to finish. Todayâ€™s victory was obviously the best way possible to kick off this yearâ€™s championship."
Dani Sordo followed his team-mate him home in second place and was equally pleased with his result: "Iâ€™m very happy because coming second means that CitroÃ«n leaves Ireland with maximum Manufacturersâ€™ points, and it was great to have a perfectly trouble-free run, too. The conditions were very difficult, and going the full distance without making any mistakes was a challenge in itself! This result is a terrific confidence booster for the rest of the season"
CitroÃ«n Sport Director Olivier Quesnel was understandably delighted with their one-two performance: "Our team has lost none of its hunger for success and everyone played their part to perfection, including our two crews, of course, who both put in a remarkable display given the atrocious conditions. We had been hoping to start the season with a win, if only because the 2009 calendar features just 12 rounds, with only two on asphalt. There will be a high price to pay for any mistake this year. "
"The fact that we are leading both championships after the seasonâ€™s curtain-raiser means we can go into the next event in a more relaxed frame of mind. That said, we wonâ€™t be favourites because the second round takes place on a terrain that tends to be more suited to the Scandinavian specialistsâ€¦"
Results: Rally Ireland, WRC round 1:
1. S. LOEB 2:48:25.7
2. D. SORDO +1:27.9
3. M. HIRVONEN + 2:07.8
4. H. SOLBERG + 6:32.4
5. C. ATKINSON + 7:51.9
6. S. OGIER +10:44.0
7. M. WILSON +11:23.8
8. K. AL QASSIMI +14:07.9
9. E. BOLAND +15:23.4
10. U. AAVA +15:35.4
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