With the absence in Australia of masters Sébastien Loeb and Daniel Elena, Kronos Racing has decided to play the youth card and to nominate for the first time together Xevi Pons/Carlos Del Barrio and Dani Sordo/Marc Marti. The Spanish crews will both take part in the FIA WRC’s fourteenth round with the 2006 version of the Xsara WRC with ‘passive differentials’.
It might be the last time that the city of Perth – Western Australia’s capital and the world’s most isolated big town – hosts the Australian round of the world championship, just like it did discontinuously since 1989. Langley Park, which sits on the Swan river's right bank, offers one the most beautiful single service park of the season. Not far from there is Gloucester Park horse track, home of the ‘Perth City Super Special', which drivers will contest no fewer than six times in total, and also featuring the shakedown on Wednesday evening.
Except for this innovation, the 2006 route is similar to last year's, with visits to the Dwellingup region, to the Mundaring/Helena River area east of Perth and to the Sotico Complex, famous for its spectacular jumps.
If most of the drivers appreciate the delightful city of Perth, they seem to like a bit less Perth’s stages specificity. They feature small, marble-like stones that form an unstable top-coating. Their colour ranges from yellow to dark ochre, while their size varies between that of a garden pea to that of a playground marble. The combination of this loose surface, the high average speeds – between 105 and 110 km/h on the five last editions - reached by the drivers and the proximity of the trees in the forest stages makes this one of the toughest challenges of the entire championship.
Since 2002, date of its first outing on the wallaby grounds, the Xsara WRC has integrated the specificities of the Australian terrain and has improved continuously. It competed for first place in 2003 and won the event in 2004 and 2005. The Xsara is now ready to tackle the aussie stages as far as traction and precision in handling are concerned. The Australian rally is probably one where road sweeping is the most penalising, especially on dry conditions.
As spring shows up in Perth, rain should not be expected to minor the ‘sweeping tax’. Starting third on the road on day one, Dani Sordo could probably not avoid completely the road cleaning. However, the lines from the cars preceding him might help. The target for the Junior World champion will be to take maximum profit of this and stick up to the leaders in order to avoid a penalising starting order on day two. Seventh on the road on Friday, Xevi Pons will benefit from better conditions to try to reach the same goal: keep the front runners in his sight.
Kronos Total Citroën’ Spanish young aces know the team counts on them and they are both extremely motivated to take part in the battle for the Manufacturers’ title.
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