Motorsport News - Rally
Citroen taking on Finnish Rally rollercoaster
28th July 2012
After a six-week break, the WRC resumes with the iconic Rally Finland.
Having already won twice in the land of a thousand lakes, Sbastien Loeb and Daniel Elena start the eighth round of the season with a comfortable
lead in the Drivers standings. The eight-time World Champions can expect to find a raft of Scandinavian drivers attempting to block their path, starting with their Citron Total World Rally Team team-mates, Mikko Hirvonen and Jarmo Lehtinen. In search of a first victory with the team, the Finnish crew would dearly love to win here!
With five wins in the first seven rallies for Loeb and Elena and the same number of podium finishes for Hirvonen and Lehtinen, the Citron Total World Rally Team has negotiated the first half of the 2012 season impressively. The team holds a 93-point lead in the Manufacturers World Championship, whilst its two crews lie first and second in the Drivers standings respectively.
The second half of the season, which will remain in Europe to its conclusion, starts in Finland. Whereas the last three rallies placed greater emphasis on endurance with over 400km of stages in Argentina, Greece and New Zealand in Jyvskyl, the Finnish round keeps to its sprint format, with the stages packed into just three days, from Thursday evening to Saturday evening. Winding through the conifer forests, the rallys gravel roads are famous for their jumps, crests and blind corners. For a long time, this highly specific terrain was the preserve of Nordic drivers, until a certain
Sbastien Loeb became the first non-Finn to win the event twice (2008 and 2011).
Despite his recent success here, Seb is not prepared to label himself as the big favourite for the rally: I say the same
thing every year, this is not my favourite rally. The stages are magnificent, but the trees are bit too close to the road for
my liking. I have always managed to avoid going off, undoubtedly because I dont go flat out if I don't feel totally
comfortable behind the wheel. To be totally honest, it is difficult to say whether I'll be going for the win or not. Ive got
such a healthy lead in the World Championship that I dont need to take any risks. But if I feel that I am capable of
winning, then Ill go for it. After a good break, I am pleased to get behind the wheel of the DS3 WRC. We are going to
be testing this weekend in Finland, so that will give us the perfect opportunity to get back into the swing of things.
If there is one driver who has made no secret of his desire to win this rally, then it is unquestionably Mikko Hirvonen.
The 2011 WRC runner-up grew up in Jyvskyl and won his home rally in 2009. After two years of frustration here, he
is totally focussed on winning the 1000 Lakes Rally for a second time: I think that I have now collected plenty of
runner-up spots, so it's time to get my first win with Citron! Obviously, if it could happen at my home rally, I would be
overjoyed. I really like quick rallies, and it's in these kinds of conditions that I feel most comfortable in the Citron DS3
WRC. I hope there will be a good scrap at the front, not just with Seb but also with the other leading contenders.
As the Citron Total World Rally Team features drivers that have won Rally Finland in three out of the last four years,
Yves Matton believes we can look forward to some extremely high quality racing: I think our rivals will be prepared and
eager to fight back. Theyll be going all out to end our run of victories. But Seb and Mikko will give as good as they get
from the likes of Latvala, Solberg, Ostberg, etc. Our drivers are capable of pushing from start to finish, and theyll need
to do so to ensure Citron wins this legendary rally once again.
THREE QUESTIONS FOR MIKKO HIRVONEN
Do you feel any extra pressure for Rally Finland? How important is this event in your country?
Obviously, I felt a bit more pressure in 2010 and 2011. But each time, the rally didnt go very well for me. This year, my mindset is different. I feel confident because I know that the Citron DS3 WRC will be formidable on this surface. I cant wait to get racing on the first few stages. The city of Jyvskyl certainly goes through a bit of a transformation as the start of the event approaches. Everyone starts talking about the rally and people make extensive preparations for the event, organising their trips to watch stages with their friends and families. The closer we get to the start, the more the excitement becomes palpable. In the local newspapers, more or less bizarre predications begin to appear: who will win the first stage, who will go off first, etc. It really is a major event in Finland, because the Finns are truly passionate
What do you think about the 2012 route? Can we assume youre pleased to see the Ouninpohja stage back in the rally?!
It is really good to see the old stages back on the itinerary. There will also be some brand new stages, such as the Mynnil test, which will be a new experience for everyone. Of course, I am pleased that Ouninpohja is back. Its an incredible stage, one of the two or three best stages in the world. It is also one of the most difficult, because you are flirting with going off on every corner and on every jump! Its flat out all the way and the feeling you get when driving is indescribable. You still feel the excitement even after passing the stop control, when you think about what you have
Sbastien Loeb has won this rally twice, whereas you've only one victory here. Do you intend to put the record straight?
What I can say for sure is that I will be tackling the rally differently to the last two years. I am going to be a little bit more cautious at the start. I dont want to my chances to be ruined by Thursday afternoon. However, you can't afford to lose too much time because gaps that open up can be very difficult to close. When it comes down to it, yes, I want to get back on even terms with Seb. I really want to win this rally!
RALLY FINLAND ITINERARY
WEDNESDAY 1 AUGUST
4.00pm: Free practice
7.30pm: Qualifying Stage
9.30pm: Choice of starting positions for the first two stages
22.10pm: FIA Pre-Event Press Conference
THURSDAY 2 AUGUST
5.23pm: SS1 Koukunmaa (13.68km)
7.00pm: SS2 SSS Jokimaa (2.00km)
8.50pm: SS3 Mynnil (14.40km)
10.35pm: Service Park A (45 min)
FRIDAY 3 AUGUST
6.30am: Service Park B (15 min)
7.42am: SS4 Urria (12.75km)
8.39am: SS5 Jukojrvi (22.33km)
10.05am: Service Park C (30 min)
11.28am: SS6 Mkkiper 1 (11.38km)
12.14pm: SS7 Palsankyl 1 (13.92km)
1.32pm: SS8 Lankamaa 1 (23.09km)
2.45pm: Service Park D (30 min)
4.08pm: SS9 Mkkiper 2 (11.38km)
4.54pm: SS10 Palsankyl 2 (13.92km)
6.12pm: SS11 Lankamaa 2 (23.09km)
8.00pm: SS12 SSS Killeri (2.06km)
8.30pm: Service Park E (45 min)
SATURDAY 4 AUGUST
7.00am: Service Park F (15 min)
7.56am: SS13 Surkee 1 (14.90km)
8.54am: SS14 Leustu 1 (21.50km)
10.07am: Service Park G (30 min)
11.18am: SS15 Surkee 2 (14.90km)
12.16pm: SS15 Leustu 2 (21.50km)
1.29pm: Service Park H (30 min)
3.37pm: SS17 Ouninpohja 1 (33.01km)
6.00pm: ES18 Ouninpohja 2 Power Stage (33.01km)
8.03pm: Service Park I (10 min)
9.45pm: FIA Post-Event Press Conference
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