Rally Tour de Corse : Citroën Sport - Preview
In its bid to score further big points, the current Manufacturers' championship leaders Citroën have entered two Xsara WRCs for the Tour of Corsica; one for Sebastien Loeb
/Daniel Elena, who clinched the 2005 Drivers title* in
Japan, and the other for François Duval/Sven Smeets.
Three weeks after the FIA World Rally Championship's visit to the Far East, the series is back in Europe for Rounds 14 and 15 of the calendar which take teams to France and Spain in successive weekends.
The Versailles-Satory squad is looking forward to this year's visit to the Mediterranean island which holds many good memories for it, from the one-two finish of Philippe Bugalski/Jean-Paul Chiaroni and Jesús Puras/Marc Marti with the Xsara Kit-Car in 1999 and the Xsara WRC's maiden win in the hands of Puras/Marti in 2001, to the securing of Sébastien and Daniel's first Drivers' crown and the clinching of Citroën's second consecutive Manufacturers' title in Ajaccio this time last year.
This year, Sébastien and Daniel are ahead of schedule: their 2nd place in Japan put the finishing touch to their title-winning run during which they have set a number of new records, including a score of eight wins to date. "But winning the Drivers' title is only half the job," announced Guy Fréquelin in Obihiro. "We will now try to finish it off by winning the Manufacturers' crown again."
Winning a third consecutive Manufacturers' title is now the team's primary objective and, to boost its chances, it is clearly hoping for a top result in Corsica. Its hopes are founded on the recent domination of the Xsara WRC and its Michelin tyres on asphalt – admittedly of a very different type – in Germany, but Sébastien's motivation to win his home round for the first time and François Duval's previous strong runs on the island have also helped fire the team's optimism.
Even so, everyone in the Citroën camp knows that Corsica won't be easy. "It's an event we know well," says Technical Manager Xavier Mestelan-Pinon, "but we haven't always been successful, even though the Xsara tends to go well there. The twisty, rather narrow stages feature frequent portions of bumpy, ageing asphalt, so you need a car that soaks up vertical travel well and doesn't understeer. We have taken that into account to fine-tune every tiny detail of the Xsara's set-up, as well as working through the range of tyres made available by Michelin. We have some good cards in hand. It's now up to us to play them effectively."
One of the key challenges of Corsica is getting tyre choice right, with stages starting between 45 minutes and up to 3 hours after service. The Sagone, Ajaccio and Valinco Gulfs all serve as corridors which channel clouds inland from the sea before the latter break over the lofty mountain ridges. In the same stage, it is not rare to find a dry, say, south-facing slope and a very wet, but quickly drying northern slope. "Aria ròssa à la marina, piscia o sòffia la matina," goes a local proverb; "Red sky at night, rain or wind the next morning". From Thursday evening, there are sure to be many heads turned towards the sky over the Sanguinaires islands west of Ajaccio…
* Subject to publication of the official results by the FIA.
Rally Press release Citroën Sport