Citroën: The DS3 WRCs move onto tarmac
— After a series of six gravel rounds, during which the Citroën Total Abu Dhabi World Rally Team has established itself in second place in the Manufacturers’ standings, the World Championship returns to tarmac in Germany.
— Three DS 3 WRCs will be competing in Trier, driven by Mads Østberg/Jonas Andersson, Kris Meeke/Paul Nagle and Stéphane Lefebvre/Stéphane Prévot.
— It will be the talented young Frenchman’s first competitive outing in the DS 3 WRC, after winning the FIA Junior WRC and WRC3 titles last season in a DS 3 R3.
Having secured eleven consecutive wins here between 2002 and 2013, Citroën Racing boasts an impressive record on the roads of Rallye Deutschland. Very competitive again in 2014 thanks to the efforts of Kris Meeke and Mads Østberg, the Citroën Total Abu Dhabi World Rally Team returns to a familiar hunting ground nestled between the Luxembourg border and the banks of the Mosel river.
With rallies in Germany, France and even Spain – the majority of which will be contested on tarmac – the final part of the season is set to be punctuated by this surface. For the entire team, the month of August goes hand in hand with applying a new configuration. The drivers, engineers and mechanics all need to adopt specific methods for this surface.
As regards the DS 3 WRC, although the body shells remain unchanged, the suspension, shock absorbers and brakes are all adapted for use on tarmac. The set-up is specifically defined for the challenges thrown up by an event like Rallye Deutschland. A test session held in France, close to the German border, enabled the crews to begin work on adjusting to the pace of the surface ahead of recce.
On tarmac, the DS 3 WRCs will benefit significantly from the upgrades made during the first half of the season. The improved engine performance, the rear suspension geometry and the 2015-spec aerodynamics will all help the drivers. The recent tests also provided an opportunity to work with the new range of Michelin tyres, which are available from Rallye Deutschland onwards. Tyre choice will once again be a key aspect at this event. In August, the weather in the region can change very suddenly and this can have a significant impact on the race set-up.
For Mads Østberg, Rallye Deutschland will give him the chance to finish in the top 10 for the twelfth event running, a feat that has only been achieved once in the last four seasons. Consistent and quick with three podium finishes this year, the Norwegian currently lies third in the World Championship standings.
Leader of Rallye Deutschland with three stages to go last year, Kris Meeke knows how this highly specific event can catch you out. The Northern Irishman, winner of Rally Argentina in the spring, will be in with a good chance on tarmac.
Competing in a third DS 3 WRC with the support of his partners, Stéphane Lefebvre will be making his competitive debut in the top-flight category. Having risen to prominence in the PSA Peugeot Citroën group’s promotional formulas, he won the FIA Junior WRC and WRC3 titles last year in a DS 3 R3. This year, he has continued to learn about rallying at this level in a DS 3 R5 and a DS 3 RRC as part of the WRC2 championship.
Yves Matton (Citroën Racing Team Principal): “Rallye Deutschland marks the start of the run-in and the return to tarmac after two very fast gravel rallies. It’s a radical change of setting and surface and it’s also a very special event for Citroën Racing, one where we have enjoyed a lot of success over the years. The team has an awful lot of experience here. This first round of the season on tarmac will give us the chance to assess the progress of the DS 3 WRC on this surface. Kris and Mads will be free to choose their strategy for the race. Kris has already shown his potential on asphalt, especially in Germany, and Mads is continuing to make progress on tarmac. For Stéphane Lefebvre, this will be another opportunity for him to keep on learning. This first appearance in a DS 3 WRC shows that the formula offered by Citroën Racing works. Sixteen months ago, he made his World Championship debut in a DS 3 R3. He has worked hard to get to where he is today. A totally new challenge now lies ahead for him.”
Mads Østberg: “The DS 3 WRC is an exceptional car on tarmac, so I can’t wait to get going on this, the first proper rally on this surface on the 2015 calendar. Testing went very well. I was able to fully concentrate on my driving, to get my bearings again. The upgrades made by the technical team are undoubtedly going to help us to compete with our main rivals. I know Rallye Deutschland pretty well now, having competed here five times before. It’s a great event, which calls for a lot of concentration. My aim is to do my best and be as quick as possible. The roads vary a lot throughout the rally, with stages in the vineyards, the forests and the military base and so you need to keep adjusting your driving style. A top 5 or top 6 finish would be a pretty good result, because we need to score points for the championships.”
Kris Meeke: “I can’t wait to get started. Rallye Deutschland is an event that I particularly enjoy. Last year, we were on the pace. For my first race on tarmac in the DS 3 WRC, I had found the confidence to push very quickly. The car is just incredible on this surface. I hope that the experience I’m accumulating at each round will help me to be among the frontrunners again. I’d prefer it to be hot and dry, although the weather is always very difficult to predict in this region. If it rains, the early runners drag a lot of mud on the lines and it becomes more difficult. Finishing on the podium here is a realistic goal. If I manage to be consistent and keep out of trouble, I know that we’ll be at the front. But anything can happen!”
Stéphane Lefebvre: “I really enjoyed getting to grips with the DS 3 WRC during my first runs in testing. This is not the first time that Citroën Racing has given a driver a debut in a WRC, so I felt like I had plenty of support and encouragement from the team whilst learning about rallying at this level. There is more power under the bonnet and the braking is breath-taking on tarmac. I have, of course, been thinking about this event since the start of the year, although I never became fixated on this date. I’m trying not to put any extra pressure on myself. I see it as another step forward as I progress towards competing with the top drivers. The aim is to start well with the DS 3 WRC and get as many miles as I can under my belt. If the conditions are right and I feel good, then I’ll try and show what I can do!”
PANZERPLATTE AND MANY OTHER TRICKY SECTIONS
Although the 45.61 kilometre-long Panzerplatte test, run twice on Saturday’s leg, may go a long way towards determining the outcome of Rallye Deutschland, almost all of the other stages are exceptionally difficult with road surfaces that change from one section to another.
On Thursday morning, each of the crews will be using the shakedown, held on Konz (4.60km), to get their bearings one final time before the start. The ceremonial start of the rally will see the crews pass under the Porta Nigra Roman gate in Trier before returning to parc ferme.
In championship standings order, the cars will arrive in the service park from 8am on Friday morning to prepare for an opening loop of four stages located to the north, each run twice: Sauertal (14.84km), Waxweiler (16.40km), then Moselland (23.24km) and Mittelmosel (13.67km) through the heart of the vineyards. The morning and afternoon loops will be broken up by a 30-minute service at 1.10pm. The leg is due to finish from 7.20pm in Trier.
The crews and teams face an early start on Saturday morning, setting off at 6.10am for Grafschaft (18.35km) in the vineyards and the very fast Bosenberg (17.13km). They then head for the Baumholder military base with two runs on the short Panzerplatte Arena (2.87km), followed by the monster Panzerplatte (45.61km). More of the same in the afternoon after a service, but with just one run on Panzerplatte Arena. The crews are expected back in Trier from 8.42pm.
On Sunday, the priority crews will start in reverse order of the overall rally standings, tackling two runs on Stein & Wein (19.59km) and Dhrontal (14.08km), along the banks of the Mosel. The Power Stage is due to get underway at 12.08pm. The rally is scheduled to finish in front of the Porta Nigra from 3pm.
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