Finland : Citroen Sport - Preview
After an eight-week break, the 2007 World Rally Championship is about to get back into full swing. To get the second half of the season started on a high note, the action resumes with Finland's roller-coaster ride for which Citroën Sport
has entered two C4 WRCs for Sebastien Loeb
/Daniel Elena and Dani Sordo/Marc Martí.
The final run-in to the year sees the World Championship regulars face a programme of eight rounds in the space of just four months, and what better way could there be to get the ball rolling than the year's fastest fixture? The legendary feature of the Jyväskylä region's gravel roads which skirt vast lakes and hug the gently undulating countryside is of course the abundance of jumps that launch the cars high into the air.
"It's an extremely fast rally. You're on the limit from start to finish," says Sebastien Loeb
. "And of course there are all the jumps, many of which are followed by concealed corners. The challenge during recce is to gauge just how far you are likely to jump and at what speed you will take off. When the road turns after the crest, it's best to get your landing just right, and facing the right direction!"
The specific characteristics of the championship's ninth round make local knowledge more important here than on any other event visited by the WRC, and that will be especially the case this time round since 46% of the tests are new.
The first leg will take crews west of Jyväskylä, near Keuruu, while Jämsä will provide the backdrop for the second day's action to the southwest.
The final leg will take survivors to the Laukka region, to the north-east. The two Citroën drivers are taking the introduction of new stages philosophically: "The locals learned to drive on these roads," observes Dani Sordo. "They know them by heart and that's a big advantage. I've only done this event one before in a WRC car, so I've still got a great deal to learn."
"Just when I was beginning to find my marks," adds Seb! "It's obviously a key factor that promises to make the weekend even more complex."
For the championship's highest-flying fixture, Citroen's drivers know they will be able to count on an important ally in the C4 WRC. "Straight into our pre-event test programme," reports Seb, "my car felt nicely balanced and that's vital for Finland. We then worked with the team to fine-tune the set-up to make it even more competitive across the full range of conditions."
Dani echoes Seb's comments: "Over the different test stages we used, the C4 responded well. Its consistency and progressive handling are good for confidence and will allow us to push as hard as we choose to."
For Citroën, the mission in Finland will be simple: to maintain contact with its rivals and, if possible, score points. For that, the two drivers have their own approach: "I know I've still got a great deal to learn in these forests," accepts Dani. "It can be easy to make a mistake, and it only takes one… So I won't be out to keep up with the front-runners at all costs. I will endeavour to finish as close to them as possible in order to come away with Manufacturers' points."
Meanwhile, Seb is just nine points adrift of the provisional championship leader and has higher ambitions for the weekend: "It's quite simple really… I will do what I can to win. I will push to begin with and then see where we stand. That said, I can't afford to risk throwing everything away either because that would simply make matters worse. Our situation isn't easy but it could all change very quickly because Marcus Grönholm isn't immune from making a mistake either."
"Finland isn't the easiest of venues to resume the championship because it's one of the most complex events of the year," says Guy Fréquelin. "We will need a top result to keep our chances alive in both championships. Because of his lack of experience, it won't be easy for Dani Sordo. He and Marc Martí must try to score as many points as possible for Citroën. Sebastien Loeb
and Daniel Elena are fully aware of the situation and will be out to win, but they also know that complicating an already difficult picture wouldn't be a smart idea."