Three weeks after Rally France in which Sébastien Loeb, Daniel Elena and the Citroën Total Rally team clinched the world titles,* the FIA World Rally Championship heads for the region of Catalonia for the penultimate round of the 2010 season – Rally de Espana. Dani Sordo and Diego Vallejo are determined to shine in front of their home crowd as they take on the Spanish asphalt.

The team will run its C4s in asphalt setup for the last time, and even though it is no longer under pressure, its determination to win is as strong as ever. But the crowd will have to wait till Saturday morning to see the Citroëns skim the asphalt on their 18-inch Pirelli PZero tyres. The first leg of Rally Spain will be run in gravel setup.This mixed route will be a big challenge for the crews, and also for the mechanics who will have to make several changes to the cars in a 75-minute period in the service park on Friday evening.

Of course, gravel is synonymous with sweeping and Sébastien Loeb and Daniel Elena, who will be first out on the road, will probably lose a fair few seconds because of this phenomenon. “If the weather’s dry I think we’ll lose a lot of time by sweeping off the layer of dust on the hard surface,” warns Loeb. “In my opinion, Dani Sordo is ideally placed as being fifth out he’ll have a clean road in front of him. He can finish the day with a twenty or thirty- second lead. To close such a gap to Dani on asphalt, you have to drive bloody quickly!”

“I’ll be tackling this rally like any other, and it’s not because I’ve won the title that I’ll arrive with my hands in my pockets,” the seven-time world champion continues. ‘I don’t like losing and I’ll also drive for the fun of it. We’ll see how things are shaping up after the first few stages. But it’s obvious that I’m not going to take unnecessary risks.”

If Loeb is betting on Dani Sordo, the latter is keeping a cool head: “Above all I’m delighted to compete in a rally in front of my home crowd. The French spectators set us a very high target three weeks ago. The Spaniards have to take up the challenge, and be even more numerous on the side of the roads in Catalonia.

“With the first leg on gravel and the next two on asphalt, it’ll be a very interesting rally and the same goes for the Friday night service park,” underlines the Spaniard. “I’m hoping for a lot from this event and people are hoping for a lot from me! I’m under a little pressure but it’s positive, and frankly I feel more relaxed than in France where I had to score points to help Citroën win the manufacturers’ title. The desire to score my first victory is as strong as ever but it’s far from in the bag.”

* Subject to the publication of the official results by the FIA.