This weekend's Wales Rally GB not only marks the end of the 2010 World Rally Championship season, but also the end of the era of the 2-litre World Rally Cars. The Citroen C4 WRC has taken 35 victories in 55 rallies until now, with Citroen Total World Rally Team drivers Sebastien Loeb and Sebastien Ogier aiming to give the car a 36th win on its final event.
Loeb wrapped up the title back on Rally France, and subsequently took a comfortable win in Spain. He will be hoping to end another successful season on top by winning in Wales. “Whenever we start a rally, we do so with the intention of winning,” he said. “If I feel good and the conditions are favourable, there's no reason why I shouldn't be gunning for a third win on the bounce in Wales.”
Ogier will make his third start for the 'factory' Citroen Total squad this weekend, ahead of his full-time move from the Citroen Junior Team for 2011. He currently lies second in the drivers' standings, and will be defending the runner-up spot from Jari-Matti Latvala and Petter Solberg. “We didn't think we'd be fighting for second place this season,” he admits. “It's become our objective as the season's unfolded. We lost a few points in France and Spain, but we're still in front and a place on the podium will be enough no matter where our two rivals finish.
“But I don't feel like holding back and racing the whole weekend just to score the fifteen points that go with third place. To achieve my aim I want to fight for the best possible result. To prepare for this rally I did a fitness training course in the Pyrenees, and I'll arrive in Wales in tip-top form. I know it's a difficult rally and I've got mixed memories of my first two stages in 2008. It was all a bit crazy as it was our first WRC Rally. Then I went off and I only saw the finish thanks to the Superrally. Last year, we retired because of mechanical problems. These memories mean that I'm going to tackle the rally in a humble frame of mind.”
Meanwhile, the Junior Team will be represented by Dani Sordo, who steps down from the main team, and regular Kimi Raikkonen. It will be an important weekend for both, with Sordo hoping to impress as he looks for a drive for 2011, having been dropped by Citroen. Former F1 champion Raikkonen will need to do better than he did in Spain, when he crashed in shakedown, ruling him out of action for the rest of the weekend.
Sordo, who has finished on the podium in his last two Rally GB starts, said: “This is a particularly difficult rally, but I've manage to set some good times there in the past. This year, I want to be right in the fight for victory.
“The weather conditions will play a big part,” he added. “If the roads stay dry, this is going to be an extremely fast rally. If it rains though, the stages will rapidly turn into mud and it will become the most slippery event of the year. We need to get off to a good start, as I'm sure that the pace will be quick from the very beginning. Everyone wants to win the last rally of the year.”
Raikkonen, who has so far scored 21 points in his debut WRC season, said: “We knew that our first learning year would be a bit like this. Like any driver starting off in a completely new discipline that is as specialised as rallying, I've had my ups and downs. I imagine that Wales will be no different.
“We're going to work hard during the recce. We need to make sure that we set off at a decent pace and then gradually reduce the gap to the frontrunners as the rally goes on. Our rivals will have more experience than us on these roads, although Kaj knows some of the stages. If that means that we can keep making the pace notes in the same way as before, it's definitely a small bonus.”