Citroën enter three C3 WRCs in Portugal
Mads Østberg back in the team for this round
The season’s opening gravel round in Europe, Rally de Portugal sees Citroën Total Abu Dhabi WRT enter three C3 WRCs for Kris Meeke – Paul Nagle, Craig Breen – Scott Martin and Mads Østberg – Torstein Eriksen respectively. This three-pronged attack should increase the team’s chances of securing a strong result, with each driver pairing possessing a broad range of skills and qualities
THREE LEADING CREWS
One of the world championship’s iconic events, Portugal is a rally that all drivers dream of winning one day. Its immense popularity with fans is unrivalled anywhere else and its beautiful stages are clearly appreciated by all who tackle them. Kris Meeke, winner here in 2016, and Mads Østberg, who prevailed in 2012 when the rally was still held in the Algarve, clearly know a thing or two about the event whilst Craig Breen is certainly determined to follow in their footsteps as soon as possible. With such a strong driver line-up, Citroën Total Abu Dhabi WRT is evidently well equipped to challenge in the breathtaking contest expected at this, the sixth round of the season. Among the frontrunners for long periods in last year’s rally, Kris Meeke has already shown good form on gravel this year. Third in Mexico, he would have undoubtedly secured the same result in Argentina had it not been for a harsh puncture, but he will take bags of confidence into this round from the recent upgrade to the C3 WRC’s rear axle, as he looks to get back on the podium. After claiming a promising fifth place last year on the stages held to the north of Porto, grabbing an impressive stage win amidst the intensive scrap at the front on Friday’s leg, Craig Breen will also be keen to up the pace this year. He’ll be looking to make the most of tenth place in the starting order on day one to get his rally off to the perfect start. Meanwhile, Mads Østberg, who will be twelfth on the road on day one, is back in the team after an encouraging sixth place in Sweden on his competitive debut in the C3 WRC. He also possesses the experience and consistency to secure a strong result.
A FAMILIAR COURSE
Before hoping to send the huge crowds wild with spectacular long leaps over the famous Fafe jump, tackled just before the rally finish on Sunday, the crews will need to have successfully negotiated a wide variety of timed stages. The loose gravel stages are renowned for their capacity to become increasingly – and irreversibly – rutted as more cars complete and they can throw a few curve balls at drivers, especially on the second loop. With the stages unchanged compared with 2017, the championship regulars nonetheless have a broadly similar knowledge of the stages and so the fight at the front is set to be even more intense!
WHAT THEY SAID
Pierre Budar, Citroën Racing Team Principal
"With Mads back in the team for this round, we have three crews capable of getting results that meet our expectations here in Portugal, at what you might call this year’s first ’conventional’ gravel rally. Before Rally Argentina, all three took part in six days of intensive testing in Portugal, which proved to be very productive, and with the information also taken from the full-scale competitive testing done on the final day in Argentina, we are fired up for the fight as soon as the action gets underway."
"After two fairly specific rallies on gravel in Mexico and then Argentina, Rally de Portugal will be the first real test in terms of out-and-out performance. As the stages are unchanged from last year, everyone has the pace notes and the same knowledge of the roads. I’m going to try and take advantage of my sixth position on the road on day one. It’s a rally that I really like and I have high hopes that, like in Argentina, I can show the progress that our C3 WRC has made on this surface."
"I have some good memories from 2017. We were fast, especially on the Friday, so much so that we weren’t far off ending the opening leg in the lead. The stages are fantastic, the fans are very passionate and there are lots of them too! I would love to fight for a podium place. We went pretty close in Argentina, despite our lack of experience, but this time I want to produce that level from start to finish, avoid making any mistakes and turn all of that into a good result."
"I’m delighted to be back in the team after my last race at Rally Sweden, which already seems like it was light years ago! With this long break, I might need a bit of time to get my bearings again. But I had a good day testing with the C3 WRC before Argentina. The feeling in the car was very good and I felt confident fairly quickly. Rally de Portugal is obviously a bit special for me, as it’s the only one I’ve won in the WRC, but at the time it was held in the Algarve. However, this year my approach will perhaps be slightly more cautious, so I can get my bearings back and make it to the end without any problems. Then I’ll be ready to go for a big push in Sardinia!"