In addition to bringing down the curtain on the 2010 World Championship, Rally Great Britain will also mark the end of an era; that of the 2-litre turbo World Rally cars. The C4 WRC, already part of rallying legend with 35 victories in 55 rallies, wants to go out on a high note. The crews of Sébastien Loeb/Daniel Elena and Sébastien Ogier/Julien Ingrassia, entered under the colours of the Citroën Total World Rally Team, will both go flat out for victory.
The Welsh stages are both quick and technical and provide a real test for the team and crews. Changeable weather conditions can also add to the mix with the potential of rain, mud, fog and even ice and snow providing a truly unique atmosphere for the event.
Sébastien Loeb and co-driver Daniel Elena who won the world titles in Rally France* will start the event under no pressure and are determined to put on a great display. “Whenever we start a rally, we do so with the intention of winning,” says Loeb. “If I feel good and the conditions are favourable, there’s no reason why I shouldn’t be gunning for a third win on the bounce in Wales.”
The runner-up spot is still up for grabs. Sébastien Ogier and Julien Ingrassia, who have held second place since their win in Rally Portugal, have eleven and sixteen points in hand over their rivals, Jari-Matti Latvala and Petter Solberg respectively. The three drivers are ready for the final sprint on Welsh gravel.
“We didn’t think we’d be fighting for second place this season,” admits Ogier, who is driving for the Citroën Total World Rally Team for the third time. “It’s become our objective as the season’s unfolded. We lost a few points in France and Spain, but we’re still in front and a place on the podium will be enough no matter where our two rivals finish.”
“But I don’t feel like holding back and racing the whole weekend just to score the fifteen points that go with third place. To achieve my aim I want to fight for the best possible result,” Sébastien goes on. “To prepare for this rally I did a fitness training course in the Pyrenees and I’ll arrive in Wales in tip-top form. I know it’s a difficult rally and I’ve got mixed memories of my first two stages in 2008. It was all a bit crazy as it was our first WRC Rally. Then I went off and I only saw the finish thanks to the Super-rally. Last year, we retired because of mechanical problems. These memories mean that I’m going to tackle the rally in a humble frame of mind.”
* Subject to the publication of the official results by the FIA.
Three questions to…Sébastien Loeb
Before Rally Spain you told us that you wouldn’t take a lot of risks to win the rally. And yet you did! What have you got in store for us in Rally Great Britain?
“It’s always more fun not to stick to the plot, isn’t it? I’m heading for Wales in a relaxed frame of mind. If I like the route, if I feel inspired after reconnaissance and the weather conditions are suitable, I’ll fight for victory. I’ll see when I’m there as I may have the right feeling for this rally – or I may not – depending on the conditions. If we’re on icy stages on gravel tyres like in 2008, I don’t think I’ll bother trying to find the ultimate tenths.”
You’ll probably have more rivals on gravel…
“It’s true. In Spain, Dani Sordo was the only one who could have given me a run for my money, but he lost out on the first day. Sébastien Ogier tried too hard and went off. It’ll be different in Great Britain. Ogier, Solberg, Latvala and Hirvonen are all potential winners. All the more so as three of them are fighting for the runner-up spot.”
It’ll be your last rally in the C4 WRC. Even though you’re not the nostalgic kind, how do you view its evolution over the last four seasons?
“A racing car that evolves is a bit like a kid you don’t see growing up! The C4 WRC’s evolution was done in small steps on an on-going basis. Nothing’s fundamentally changed – except for the decoration! But if you were to put me into the 2007 car today, I’d begin to ask myself if there wasn’t a problem. If something sticks in my mind, it’s the change to Pirellis in 2008. Their structure was very different to what we’d known before and we were forced to make in-depth modifications to the suspension on gravel.”