Sardinia : Citroen / JWRC - Preview
Italy's round of the JWRC is in reality the second loose encounter of 2006. However, the low number of competitors (four) present in Argentina makes this event Ė with eighteen runners Ė the championship's first true clash on gravel of
Four of the series' five C2 Super 1600 drivers nominated the Sardinian fixture on their programme, including Brice Tirabassi/Jacques-Julien Renucci (winners in Corsica and 5th in the current standings) and Julien Pressac/Gilles de Turckheim (13th) whose cars are run by PH Sport. Czechs Martin Prokop/Jan TomŠnek, who won the Spanish round and who are currently 7th in the championship, will be present with their Jipocar Racing-attended car, while Prinz Rallye Technik (PRT) will watch over the C2 of Aaron Burkart/Tanja Geilhausen.
It was a year ago in Sardinia that the C2 Super 1600 made its world class debut on gravel after an exploratory outing on the PT Rali de Portugal. CitroŽn's S1600 contender obtained a superb close-formation finish on the Mediterranean island, with Kris Meeke's 3rd place compounding Dani Sordo's excellent win. Kris will not be present in Sardinia this time round however since he has chosen instead to nominate his home round, Wales Rally GB, the final event of the 2006 calendar.
This means CitroŽn's chances will essentially be defended by a line-up of trailblazers this weekend, since only Martin Prokop and Aaron Burkart have previously competed in the Italian event.
Happily for these 'rookies', more than half the total competitive distance will be new, a factor which promises to counter some of the disadvantage of not knowing the terrain. Only in part though, for previous experience is always valuable, if only when it comes to taking pacenotes and hitting the ideal paceÖ
With two rounds already under their belts, and with three to come after Sardinia, eight of the current top-ten will take the start in Olbia grouped within just eight points. The top-eight naturally includes the four winners of the four events contested to date, namely Per-Gunnar Andersson, Martin Prokop, Brice Tirabassi and Guy Wilks for whom a second win would clearly give them a valuable edge in the series in which the points have so far been fairly evenly distributed.
At the same time, drivers like Andersson and Wilks, who have opted to skip the next encounter in Germany, will be keen to pull out the sort of gap that would allow them to bide their time until Finland without too much stress. But their rivals, led by Brice Tirabassi and Martin Prokop, have every intention of scuppering those plans.
"I think we can look forward to a pretty fierce scrap in Sardinia," says CitroŽn Sport's Customer Competition Manager Yves Matton. "That said, this is a tough event for the small front-wheel drive cars which suffered a great deal from punctures last year, so it could be a bit of a lottery. But that's something you've just got to live with and try to play as smartly as possible to pick up the top prize!"
Press release Citroen