The Citroen Junior Team under the spotlight
For its second consecutive season in the FIA World Rally Championship, the Citroen Junior Team will enter two Citroen C4 WRCs for Sebastien Ogier / Julien Ingrassia and Kimi Raikkonen
/ Kaj Lindstrom. The season's opening round is
held over the snowy stages of Rally Sweden, which takes place around Karlstad from February 11-14.
After a learning year in 2009, the 2010 season holds plenty of promise for the Citroen Junior Team. Sebastien Ogier, who formed part of the team last year, is joined this season by the 2007 Formula 1 World Champion Kimi Raikkonen
. By pairing up one of world rallying's brightest young stars with a well- known driver embarking on the ultimate challenge, the Citroen Junior Team will be well and truly under the spotlight this year!
The wintry conditions of the Rally Sweden present a tough task to the crews on the season-opener, but most drivers love the high speeds reached on the ice and snow. Thanks to stages that sometimes have an average speed of more than 120 kph and racing lines that thread their way precisely through imposing snow banks, spectators are sure to witness a breathtaking spectacle.
Sebastien Ogier and Julien Ingrassia enjoyed a remarkable first full season at the wheel of the Citroen C4 WRC in 2009 and they start the 2010 season with the same motivation and a year's worth of extra experience under their belts. "I just can't wait to start driving the Citroen C4 WRC in the heat of competition again," said the Frenchman. "It seems a very long time now since the 2009 season ended!"
Having contested the Monte Carlo Rally at the start of the year, Sebastien was in Finland last week to prepare for Rally Sweden with a day of testing close to Rovaniemi. "We covered around 200 kilometres in order to get to grips with the car again and work on the set-up of the Citroen C4 WRC," he reported. "I'm very pleased with the way that the car is handling. I quickly felt comfortable again and I love driving in these conditions."
Rally Sweden will be a brand new experience for Sebastien Ogier. Nonetheless, he hopes to put the experience he gained on Rally Norway last year to good use. "Actually, we're getting rather used to driving on rallies for the first time," added Sebastien. "I hope that we can show what we are capable against what is always very strong opposition on these winter rallies. Our objective on this first event of the year is just to continue to progress."
Making his debut alongside the 2008 Junior World Rally Champions is Kimi Raikkonen
. The handful of rally events he contested in 2009 has given the Finn the desire to embark on a full season with the Citroen Junior Team.
Following some test sessions and a run on the Arctic Lapland Rally a few days ago, Kimi Raikkonen
has covered nearly 600 kilometres with the Citroen
C4 WRC. "I'm just really keen to get to the start of Rally Sweden now," he said. "With Citroen, we have made some good preparations for this event. All the kilometres I already have behind me will allow me to begin the rally with no particular worries. I know that I still have many things to learn though and plenty of experience to accumulate. My goal is simply to do my best with the Citroen C4 WRC. My debut in the World Rally Championship is an enormous challenge but any driver who has competed in motorsport at a certain level always maintains the same way of working and the same desire to push themselves. I feel that I'm ready to take on this challenge now."
Three questions to... Benoit Nogier - Citroen Junior Team Manager
The Citroen Junior Team is starting its second season in the World Rally Championship. How do you prepare for this new challenge?
"Just starting this new season is already great news for us. Our plan is to pick up on where we left off with our achievements last year. We've certainly not lost sight of the reasons why the Citroen Junior Team was created in the first place: our drivers are with us to learn, discover what the WRC is all about and make progress. Our job is to give them the equipment that allows them to acquire the maximum possible experience at the top level of the sport and show off their talent to the best of their abilities."
In 2010, Sebastien Ogier will start his second season at the wheel of the Citroen C4 WRC while Kimi Raikkonen
is a new arrival at the Citroen Junior Team. That's quite some line-up...
"Yes, that was my first reaction as well! After a debut season with us in which he put in performances that were more than just promising, Sebastien Ogier will be able to continue his career path. He has learned quite a lot already, so now he is in a position to show a bit more of his potential. It's an honour for us to welcome Kimi Raikkonen
, and for a driver of his standing to choose Citroen and the Citroen Junior Team is obviously a source of huge satisfaction."
What are your objectives for this season?
"We've got different goals with Sebastien and Kimi. We're hoping that Sebastien starts the 2010 season in the same way that he finished 2009, with the same commitment, hard work and speed. In due course he should be in a position to finish on the podium. The final few steps are always the most difficult ones to take though and this is a fact that both he and ourselves are well aware of. Nevertheless, this is the target we need to bear in mind for him throughout the season. As for Kimi, he's obviously just starting. So his goal is simply to make progress on each rally. Kimi is taking his first steps in the sport and there is a steep learning curve for him to climb. But his natural talent behind the wheel clearly needs no introduction!"