FIA WORLD RALLY CHAMPIONSHIP (WRC 2015): CITROËN TOTAL ABU DHABI WORLD RALLY TEAM – A SECOND POSITION TO DEFEND
WRC A FULL 2015
A SECOND POSITION TO DEFEND.
After reclaiming second place in the Manufacturers’ World Rally Championship, the Citroën Total Abu Dhabi World Rally Team now heads to Spain for RallyRACC Catalunya – Costa Daurada.
Mads Østberg/Jonas Andersson and Kris Meeke/Paul Nagle will be tasked with defending the team’s position at the only mixed-surface event on the WRC calendar.
Khalid Al Qassimi/Chris Patterson will be competing alongside them in the team’s third DS 3 WRC.
RALLYRACC CATALUNYA – COSTA DAURADA (22-25/10/2015) – PREVIEW
16 October 2015
Since 2010, Rally de España has become something of a special round on the World Championship calendar. Based in Catalonia, this mixed-surface event serves up a unique course for the crews, with the opening leg held on gravel before switching to tarmac for Saturday and Sunday.
The first leg often proves to be the most important. In a region familiar to all the teams, the running order has a major influence on how the start of the race pans out. For Mads Østberg, currently fourth in the Drivers’ standings, and sixth-placed Kris Meeke, it will be a question of finding the right pace quickly.
On Friday evening, the change in road surface will call for a substantial amount of work to be carried out within each service area to adapt the cars. In 1 hour 15 mins, the DS 3 WRC will lose the protective mouldings needed for gravel roads and be fitted with the ‘tarmac’ parts that are essential to compete in the rest of the rally.
Specific preparations, managed effectively now due to experience acquired in previous years, and considerably more logistics work enable the DS 3 WRC to be radically changed. Many parts are replaced on the body, in the engine and in the cockpit and the entire set-up is reviewed.
However, it will be mainly up to the crews to find the right feeling in the car when they hit the tarmac on Saturday morning. Mads Østberg, who finished fourth overall here last season in the DS 3 WRC, will have another opportunity to consolidate his fourth position in the championship standings.
Kris Meeke was running in second place at this round last year in the DS 3 WRC before a puncture dashed his hopes of good result. Currently lying sixth in the Drivers’ standings, having scored 27 points at the last two events, he will also be pushing for a podium finish.
The Citroën Total Abu Dhabi World Rally Team has entered a third car for Khalid Al Qassimi, who will be making his fifth WRC start of the season after competing in Argentina, Portugal, Italy and Finland.
Last year’s FIA Junior WRC champion, Stéphane Lefebvre continues to learn about rallying at this level. Following appearances in Germany, Australia and Corsica, the talented young Frenchman will continue to drive a DS 3 WRC at Rally Catalunya, before finishing the year by competing in the top-spec car again at Wales Rally GB.
Yves Matton (Citroën Racing Team Principal): “This is a very interesting round thanks to the mix of surfaces. Although the crews spend more time on tarmac, the gravel stages are particularly demanding and technical. In the Citroën Total Abu Dhabi World Rally Team, Mads Østberg and Kris Meeke have shown themselves to be capable of producing some remarkable performances on both surfaces. The DS 3 WRC is equally competitive on all surfaces. The aim is to remain highly consistent throughout the rally to hold onto our second position in the manufacturers’ standings.”
Mads Østberg: “The course for this rally provides a unique challenge. After the Tour de Corse on tarmac, we took part in some testing on gravel so we should be well prepared to drive on both surfaces. The stages on day one are pretty similar to what we have seen here before. There are some great gravel roads. This leg will obviously be vital in making a good start to the race, but all three days will be just as important as each other. On gravel, I always look to finish on the podium. We’ll need to get among the leaders at the start, whilst remaining sufficiently competitive on tarmac to stay among the frontrunners. Obviously, a podium finish would be an excellent result!”
Kris Meeke: “I really like the idea of a rally made up of one day on gravel and two days on tarmac. Although I don’t know the gravel stages very well, the roads are very beautiful. Since we start later on Friday morning, we should avoid any problems due to the dust. On asphalt, the route is fantastic. Last year, we were very competitive and the DS 3 WRC was perfect. We only lost out on a big result after picking up two punctures. The new stages mean we’ll have to work on our pace notes. If we have a trouble-free week-end, then a podium should be a realistic target, but the real goal is to consolidate our second place in the manufacturers’ standings.”
Khalid Al Qassimi: “Rally de España is one of my favourite events. There is always a great atmosphere here and a lot of supporters follow our team. The gravel roads are different to those I am used to tackling in the Middle East Rally Championship. For example, tyre management will be important here. The majority of the stages are nonetheless contested on tarmac, with very high levels of grip. Generally, I feel very confident in the car on these roads. I think that about 40% of the stages are new this year, so we’re going to have to work a lot on the pace notes to try and secure a positive result. This round is also vital for the team, which must try to collect as many points as possible to consolidate second place in the championship. I would like to wish Kris and Mads the very best in Catalonia!”
Stéphane Lefebvre: “We are continuing to learn about rallying at this level with a very specific event. On gravel, we’ll have a good starting position. I’d like to drive like we did in Australia. The aim is to have a good race and keep out of trouble. We’ll then have to adjust to the tarmac very quickly. The roads suit me a bit more than those on the Tour de Corse, with more natural bends and technical sections offering more track-style driving. Given the substantial experience of the other drivers, we’ll have to try to set a good pace and take full advantage of the new stages.”
TWO RALLIES IN ONE
The WRCs will tackle the shakedown on Thursday, 22 October in gravel configuration. Starting at 8am, the crews will complete runs on a 2.97 kilometre-long mixed-surface stage in Salou, near to the PortAventura service park.
Later on the same day, the opening stage will get underway at 6.08pm near the base of the Montjuïc hill in Barcelona. A road section of around a hundred kilometres will then take the crews back to parc ferme in PortAventura.
On Friday morning, the first car will enter the service park at 8.45am. In the order of the World Championship standings, the drivers will tackle a loop of gravel stages twice: Móra d’Ebre-Ascó (9.62km), Caseres (12.50km), Bot (6.50km) and Terra Alta (35.68km), part of which is on tarmac. No service breaks will be permitted between stages, with only a tyre change period scheduled in the middle of the day. Once back in PortAventura, the crews will hand over their cars to their teams for 1 hour 15 mins in order to prepare them for the rest of the rally.
The race resumes on Saturday morning at 8.15am with a series of four tarmac stages: first up is Porrera (7.43km), one of the new tests, followed by La Figuera (26.26km), Poboleda (10.63km) and Capafonts (19.80km). After a thirty-minute midday service, La Figuera, Poboleda and Capafonts will be contested for a second time before the leg concludes with a 2.24km stage held in the streets of Salou.
On Sunday, after the clocks go back, the priority drivers will leave PortAventura before daylight at 6am in the reverse order of the standings. The leg features two identical loops of three stages, without any service break and without any tyre change period, starting with the brand-new test Els Guiamets (6.80km), followed by Pratdip (19.30km) and Duesaigües (12.10km), a version of Riudecanyes run in the opposite direction. The second run on Duesaigües will serve as the televised Power Stage, at 12.08pm.
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