The Citroen Junior Team on familiar ground
After the long trip to New Zealand, the World Rally Championship gets back to European soil this weekend. The Rallye de Portugal, round six of the season, will be an excellent opportunity for Sebastien Ogier and Julien Ingrassia to
underline their recent strong performances. Kimi Raikkonen
and Kaj Lindstrom have not done a rally for a month now, but they will aim to continue their progress with the Citroen C4 WRC.
Sebastien Ogier and Julien Ingrassia are continuing their march towards the very top level of world rallying. The duo reached the second step of the podium for the first time on the 2009 Acropolis Rally, and secured a similar result in New Zealand two weeks ago. "Our initial programme didn't actually even include this round," said Sebastien. "I have to thank the entire team for making it possible for us to enter New Zealand particularly because we obtained a result there that surpassed expectations. It's a very good sign for the future; we've felt confident since the start of the season and just got quicker and quicker. For our first trip to New Zealand it was an excellent performance, and we really enjoyed driving the Citroen C4 WRC on those stages. "
The Citroen Junior Team driver starts the Rallye de Portugal lying fourth in the World Championship standings and his objectives remain unchanged. "We're going to stick with the same plan we've had since the beginning of the season," added Sebastien. "Even though this is a rally that I know a bit about already, we need to make sure that there are no mistakes in Portugal and that we rack up the kilometres. It will be a great achievement if we can fight for a podium again. Starting the first day fourth on the road should be quite a good position for us."
New Zealand did not form part of the scheduled programme for Kimi Raikkonen
and Kaj Lindstrom, who return to the Citroen C4 WRC in Portugal. The former F1 World Champion will continue learning how to drive a WRC challenger on gravel over the demanding Portuguese stages. Having retired in Mexico, finished eighth in Jordan and claimed fifth in Turkey, the 30-year-old Finn will have to get to grips with another new event for him in Portugal, one of the classic rounds of the World Rally Championship.
"The short break did me a lot of good," said Kimi. "We were able to sit down and analyse our start to the season, concentrating on specific details such as making pace notes and comparing our times to those of the frontrunners. A few kilometres of testing also meant that I was able to quickly get back up to speed in the car. I know that we still have a lot to learn because rallying remains a completely new sport for me, but I feel that we are making consistent progress."
In Portugal, for his fifth event at the wheel of the Citroen C4 WRC, Kimi Raikkonen
is also retaining the same targets. "I said from the very start that it was just a question of learning," he pointed out. "We need to have everything in hand before trying to accelerate and chase the leaders. So it is necessary for us to get more and more experience. That's going to be our goal in Portugal once more."
In order to prepare for round five of the season, both drivers took part in a gravel test session in eastern France at the end of this week.
Three questions to... Benoit Nogier
Citroen Junior Team Manager
Let's look back at the trip to New Zealand... adding this event to Sebastien Ogier's programme certainly worked out well!
"New Zealand was a great experience for the entire team. Once again, Sebastien was extremely happy with the car. He pushed hard from start to finish, don't forget, without anybody at all telling him what to do. He was constantly flat-out, and I hope he keeps that feeling within him. It's the first time that he has been forced to push that hard all the way to the finish. He'll need to remember that whole experience in order to do it again in the future!"
Since the start of the season, none of the Citroen Junior Team C4 WRCs have experienced any mechanical problems. That must be a huge source of satisfaction for a Team Manager?
"It's just down to the hard work of all the team over several months. Citroen Racing's design office has produced the best World Rally Car and we are doing everything we can to make the most of it. From the people who prepare the spare parts package to the engineers who analyse data during the debriefs, it's a long-term job that has allowed us to enjoy this high degree of reliability. We take a huge amount of care when it comes to the preparation of our two cars and our drivers benefit from that. This rigour and discipline in our working practices means that we are right up there and able to score the sort of results that everyone has seen so far this year."
Now the season continues in Portugal: an event that Sebastien Ogier already knows but another brand new one for Kimi Raikkonen
. Do the objectives change at all?
"Kimi's target is continue the work he has started since the start of the season: no more and no less. He will undoubtedly face a tougher task than he did in Turkey, as all the drivers already know Portugal whereas he has it still to learn. He's very aware that there's a long road ahead of him, but together with Kaj he is adopting an extremely professional approach. He needs to carry on in the same calm frame of mind, even though this will inevitably take some time. As for Sebastien, he also needs to stay on track and stay cool. Despite his recent results, he has certainly never let success go to his head and that is a crucial attitude he must preserve. It's important to keep a clear view on everything and while Sebastien still has a lot to learn, it would seemingly not be too presumptuous to aim for a podium in Portugal. His goal at the start of the rally will be to fight with the four factory drivers. We're clearly somewhat ahead of the plan we established at the start of the year, but the mission is by no means completely accomplished. Sebastien needs to get to the end of a rally now with no mistakes."