Citroen driver Sebastien Loeb
, who will begin Rally Finland with a one-point lead over Ford's Mikko Hirvonen, believes that the Drivers' World Rally Championship will really start in Jyvaskyla!
The five-time World Champion and his co-driver Daniel Elena will be hoping to repeat
their memorable victory of 2008 as they attempt to regain the upper hand in the series.
Meanwhile, the Citroen World Rally Team continues to enjoy a handsome cushion at the top of the Manufacturers' standings while Dani Sordo and Marc Marti are targeting a podium finish in Finland, a terrain on which they feel increasingly at ease.
The high-speed stages, spectacular jumps and concealed corners of the former 1000 Lakes Rally are a unique challenge for any driver, and more especially so for those who weren't raised in Finland!
This round has counted towards the World Championship 33 times, yet only three non-Nordics have succeeded in popping the champagne in Jyvaskyla during that period, namely Carlos Sainz, Didier Auriol and... Sebastien Loeb
who took the top prize last year after a thrilling duel with Mikko Hirvonen.
Now standing one point behind Hirvonen, Loeb would obviously like to repeat that achievement on his main rival's home turf.
"It would clearly be more comfortable if we had a lead of, say, 20 points going into this rally. That said, we were only three points clear of Mikko before last year's visit," recalls Loeb. "This time, the gap is even narrower, and there are only four more rallies to come this season. As I see it, it's as though the championship will be beginning afresh in Finland, and our only option will be to attack.
Winning in Finland calls for total confidence in the car and notes, as the five-time champion explains: "Our C4 WRC is improving through detail changes at the moment and I know it is competitive on this event. Last year, I had every confidence in my car and that enabled me to push hard from start to finish."
"It turned out to be a very close fight, and the gap at the finish was less than 10 seconds," he remarked. "If we want to win again this time round, we will need to repeat the same sort of pace."
After coming second in Poland, Dani Sordo and Marc Marti will be looking for another top-three finish on a terrain on which they are feeling more and more comfortable.
"Poland was good practice for Finland," said Sordo. "Last year, we failed to beat Chris Atkinson but we still ended up fourth. I hope to do even better this time, and I can't wait to get started. The Finnish stages give drivers a unique thrill, although there aren't so many of the famous jumps which helped to forge this event's reputation in the past. The main difficulties are the blind crests which require total faith in your notes."
"We'll see how things go," added the Spaniard. "But our target once again is to score as many Manufacturers' points as possible for Citroen."