Australia : Citroen Sport - Preview
After the joy of securing their fifth world title* in three full seasons at the highest level, the three-times Manufacturers' World Champions* head for Australia with the pressure off in their bid to wrap up their record-breaking season
Citroen Total has sent two Xsara WRCs to Perth for its usual crews Sebastien Loeb
/Daniel Elena and François Duval/Sven Smeets, while Team Kronos Racing will run the privately-entered Xsaras of Manfred Stohl/Ilka Minor and Xavier Pons/Carlos Del Barrio.
The delightful Western Australia capital Perth hosts the event once again to the soothing, majestic backdrop of the Swan River, with two principal centres of activity: the single service park in Langley Park, which sits on the river's right bank, and the Gloucester Park trotting course, home of the ‘Perth City Super Special' which drivers will contest no fewer than six times in total!
Another of the Australian round's famous hallmarks is the surface of its stages which 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 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.
For the driver running first on the road, who will this year be Sebastien Loeb
on Day 1, the situation is complicated – especially in the dry – by the need to cut a line through the superficial layer of 'ball-bearings'. "If there was an effective way of countering this phenomenon, I think we would have found it by now," quips Citroën Sport's Technical Manager Xavier Mestelan-Pinon. "Otherwise, regarding the set-up of the Xsara for this event, we now have three years of experience behind us and we came away from each of our last two visits with a top result. For the fast, narrow, loose stages, traction and steering precision are essential to help the drivers stay on the clear lines left by the preceding cars. New this time round will be the Michelin Z BTO tyre which hasn't let us down in the slightest this year, whatever the terrain. We are counting on it a lot, especially since it is now spring in Australia and ground temperatures could be quite high."
The 2005 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. With three years' worth of pacenotes on file for this fixture, Daniel Elena has calculated that if all the little sections are put end to end, this year's event features just 2 km of new stages!
Numerous fine-tuning corrections will doubtlessly be made during recce, however, especially to those notes that date back to 2002. The speed of the double World Champions, who won here outright in 2004, has progressively increased since their first trip to Perth. This time, the pressure will be off and, like their team-mates François Duval and Sven Smeets, Seb and Daniel have been given carte blanche by Guy Fréquelin, so there is every chance of seeing some thrilling action this weekend in the forests of Western Australia…
* Subject to the publication of the official results by the FIA.
Press release Citroen Sport