Cyprus - Citroen Junior Team - Preview
The Citroen Junior Team is looking forward to the Cyprus Rally, the third round of the FIA World Rally Championship. For the first time, all the WRC crews will have to tackle two completely different surfaces on the same rally. This
will form a considerable test for the three Citroen C4 WRCs of Conrad Rautenbach/Daniel Barritt, Evgeny Novikov/Dale Moscatt and Sebastien Ogier/Julien Ingrassia.
After starting the season on the sodden asphalt of Ireland and then moving onto snowy Norway, the team is now preparing itself for a completely different type of challenge. Having been run entirely on gravel between 2000 and 2006, the Cyprus Rally has adopted a radically different format for its return to the championship this year. The first day will be run entirely on asphalt, before the event moves onto its more familiar gravel surface. In order to reduce costs, all the teams have been obliged to use Pirelli Scorpion gravel tyres throughout the entirety of the rally.
In Limassol the Russian Evgeny Novikov co-driven by Australia's Dale Moscatt (n°7), and Zimbabwe's Conrad Rautenbach co-driven by Briton Daniel Barritt (n°8), will be nominated to score points towards the World Championship for Manufacturers. As was the case for the two previous rallies, the French crew of Sebastien Ogier and Julien Ingrassia will be entered in a third Citroen C4 WRC, carrying the number 12.
Five days of testing have allowed the crews to get to grips with the Citroen C4 WRC in gravel configuration. Team Manager Benoit Nogier reported: "Conrad Rautenbach drove the car for two days and also had the chance to experience a gravel set-up on asphalt. Evgeny Novikov then drove for two days, while Sebastien Ogier took over the car for one day. It was very important for all our drivers to have a full understanding of the car before coming to this rally. On the second and third days of the test, we ran on gravel for the first time this year. The drivers all had a good feeling with the car and seemed to be very pleased with the set-up, which is encouraging."
The recce for the rally is expected to start off under sunny skies, with temperatures ranging from 11°C to 18°C. But even though Cyprus is famous for its warm weather, there is still the possibility of some storms. In 2002, which was the last time that the Cyprus Rally was held in spring, heavy rain became a defining characteristic of the event.
Just like their team-mates, Conrad Rautenbach and Daniel Barritt have never taken part in the Cyprus Rally before. So it is all new to the Zimbabwean – especially the much-awaited asphalt opening day of the event. "I've driven on asphalt before with a gravel set-up, but never further than a few hundred metres," he said. "In Cyprus though, we're going to have to drive for a whole day on tyres designed for gravel stages. It's going to be a very strange experience. We're not going to have anything like the same levels of grip that we are accustomed to and the cars will end up sliding a lot. I'm sure it will be good fun for all the spectators though! Our test went very well and I hope that we can soon find a good feeling when it comes to the actual rally."
Having put in a noteworthy performance in Norway, Evgeny Novikov and Dale Moscatt will find themselves back on their surface of choice in Cyprus – for the most part. The young Russian explained: "I was very pleased with our gravel test. We soon found a good rhythm with the Citroen C4 WRC, and we're obviously delighted by the fantastic opportunity that we have to drive the most competitive car in the championship, run by the Citroen Junior Team. For what's still only our second rally in a WRC machine, we're not fixing any sort of objectives in terms of results. The key thing about this event is that we have the chance to drive on gravel in order to prepare for the rest of the championship. There's no need to focus too much on the opening day though as it's going to be a very long event."
Having successfully got to the finish of the first two rallies held so far this season, Sebastien Ogier will maintain the same objective in Cyprus. "It's really just a question of gaining experience on a completely new type of rally," he said. "We're going to start the event by going reasonably carefully… but we'll always be ready to put our foot down."