RALLY DE ESPANA - CATALUNYA NOTEBOOK & CITROËN SECRETS
THE RALLY DE ESPAÑA - CATALUNYA NOTEBOOK BY… JULIEN INGRASSIA
55thRallyRACC Catalunya Costa Daurada Rally de España (24 – 27 October 2019) – Story
With eleven appearances in Catalonia, including three overall wins, Sébastien Ogier’s co-driver has had plenty of opportunities to rack up a few notable memories…
Your relationship with this rally almost got off to a bad start in 2008, when a crash might have ended up costing you and Sébastien the Junior World Championship title…
Yes, you’re right! We had done the hard part throughout the season and all we had to do was to get over the line, so to speak. But we hit a huge patch of loose gravel, lost control and went off. And that was that, we had to retire. It put a lot of pressure on us at the next round in Corsica, where we absolutely had to make it to the finish in order to score the points we needed to win the title. I remember that we ended up driving around Corsica with a car full of spare parts. Our C2 S1600 looked more like the Citroën Racing shop!
What is your worst memory at this round?
Over the years, we have seen that it’s a rally that can play a few tricks on you and throw up a few surprises. I suppose I tend to think back to when we went off on the Power Stage in 2015, when we had the race pretty much sewn up.
And what is your favourite memory?
We won the world championship there in 2014 and 2016, so obviously they were great times! They were also titles that we wrapped up before the end of the championship, which was also a bit special. And you know, at this rally, there are often a lot of French fans who come down for the weekend, as well as friends and family, so it was really nice to share the experience with them. There must be a few photos of me wearing an old blue, white and red cap that came from a rugby team. My friends put it on my head during the final interview at the end of the Power Stage in 2016!
As someone who has competed on both versions of this rally, did you prefer it when it was held exclusively on tarmac or is it more enjoyable now that it is mixed-surface event?
I like the mixed-surface concept because it’s always nice for the fans to see the mechanics at work for an hour and a quarter, switching the car from the gravel to tarmac configuration. It’s an impressive sight and it highlights the work of the team. It also shows how easy it is to transfer the car from one version to another. Having said that, from a racing point of view, with the opening leg on gravel and the issues that come with being high up the running order, you can easily lose a lot of time – fifteen, twenty or even thirty seconds – that you just can’t make up on tarmac because the gaps are much narrower. There are tenths of a second between the leading times on tarmac, whereas on gravel it’s more a matter of seconds. It’s the slightly unfair nature of the rally, where it’s almost impossible to make up time.
Which surface do you prefer?
I would say that I prefer gravel because it’s a livelier form of racing, with a bit more sliding and drifting, and improvisation… Tarmac is impressive because you have to be incredibly precise in your lines. It’s also a lot rougher ride as a co-driver and in general, you feel a bit more shaken up physically by the end of the rally. As the car is literally stuck to the ground, you feel it every time you hit the brakes, every time you accelerate, every turn of the wheel and on every left-hander, even the insignificant ones, whereas on gravel, sometimes you barely notice them.
Eleven-time winners in Catalonia, Citroën has achieved the minor feat of winning at least once with each of its cars since it first entered the WRC, starting with the Xsara Kit-Car (1999), then its big sister the Xsara WRC (2005 and 2006), the C4 WRC (2007, 2008, 2009 and 2010), the DS3 WRC (2011 and 2012) and finally the C3 WRC for the last two years. Didier Clément, Citroën’s famous race engineer and now Technical and Sporting Coordinator, recalls their first win in Spain in 1999, the French brand’s maiden WRC success...
“At the time, no-one believed that one day, we would be competing full-time in the WRC. It was a pipe dream back then. With the two-wheel drive Xsara Kit-Car, we knew there were just three rounds on tarmac (Catalonia, Corsica and Sanremo) where we might be able to do something against the powerful four-wheel drive cars of the time, but we only seemed have a real chance in Spain. There were a lot of acceleration points on dirty concrete on one of the legs in Sanremo, where we would clearly be at a disadvantage, whilst the feeling was that there were too many turns in Corsica and we would end up destroying the front tyres there. In actual fact, we were wrong on that score, because we followed up our win in Spain with a second victory in Corsica. But the first win is clearly the one that stands out for me. It sent shock waves through the entire rallying world and it kicked off the series of events that has taken us to where we are now!”
media.citroenracing.com Photo credit: © @World
LIVE BY CITROËN RACING INFO:
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Live Twitter feed during the race: @CitroenRacing
Newsflash sent directly to your smartphone via WhatsApp:http://bit.ly/2FuO3MV
Sound recordings in French, English and Finnish are available on the Citroën Racing Media site, posted at the end of each leg. They can also be sent by email directly, on request – contact firstname.lastname@example.org
CITROËN TOTAL WRT 2019 SEASON PRESS KIT:
Aurélie Lehe – Head of Communications & Marketing, Citroën Racing +33 6 79 50 21 13 – email@example.com
Eric Bellegarde – WRC Press Officer +33 6 64 15 36 03 – firstname.lastname@example.org