Turkish delight for the Citroën C3 WRCs
"This rally is new for everyone"
Round ten of the 2018 season will see the C3 WRC experience Turkey for the first time, a country where its elder sister – the Xsara WRC – secured the brand’s first win on gravel in the WRC and which will be hosting a world rally championship round for the seventh time. Citroën Total Abu Dhabi WRT will once again look to Craig Breen – Scott Martin, Mads Østberg – Torstein Eriksen and Khalid Al Qassimi – Chris Patterson to defend its chances.
THE HUB MOVES TO MARMARIS
The eruption of the Icelandic volcano Eyjafjöll back in 2010, and the disruption to air traffic it caused, held up the WRC bandwagon in Turkey the last time the rally was part of the WRC, but the championship has not been back to the country since then. On its return to the WRC this year, the rally will be based in Marmaris, a Mediterranean seaside resort on the Turkish Riviera and its third hub after Kemer (2003, 2004, 2005, 2006 and 2008) and Istanbul (2010). Despite moving the hub, the characteristics and difficulties of the event remain largely unchanged, described as being halfway between Rally de Sardegna and the Acropolis Rally. Initial feedback reported by those sent ahead to Turkey suggests that the rally will be once again technically difficult, with rock-strewn, loose gravel roads that will clean. The conditions also look set to be demanding for the cars and tyres, with very high temperatures expected. An unfamiliar test for the entire WRC field, the Citroën Total Abu Dhabi WRT crews are nonetheless determined not to be left behind, making the most of their efficient taking of pace notes, their ability to adapt and their sense of improvisation. Not forgetting, of course, that the brand holds the record number of overall victories in this country, winning four of the six rallies held here as part of the WRC.
A BIG TEST FOR STARTERS
The team has certainly prepared well for the rally with a three-day pre-event test in the Aude, reputed to have some of the roughest roads among the commonly-used test bases. Whilst Mads Østberg and Craig Breen will be attempting to make the most of their favourable starting position on the opening leg (eighth and ninth in the running order respectively) as they look to secure the team’s fourth podium of the season, Khalid Al Qassimi will be making his third appearance of 2018 in the C3 WRC and will be determined to pick up his pace in the car during the weekend. Following a city-centre super-special stage on Thursday evening, the serious stuff starts on Friday with Çetibeli, which, at over thirty-eight kilometres, is the longest stage of the weekend. No messing about here, the crews will be straight into action at a race that promises to produce some surprises…
WHAT THEY SAID
Pierre Budar, Citroën Racing Team Principal
"This rally is new for everyone, so all the teams and crews will start off on an equal footing. It looks set to be a very open race. Reliability might be one of the key factors this weekend, but we know we can count on the strength of our C3 WRC. Although we have a solid base, we’ll need to adapt quickly to the conditions in any adjustments to the set-up, whilst the crews will have to be efficient when taking pace notes during recce so they can tackle the first pass on the stages with confidence."
"The aim is really to get through the opening leg without any hiccups. If we manage to do that, we should be right up there, in the mix and well placed for the rest of the rally. It’s difficult to take any real information from the on-board footage recorded by the organiser in a production car. One thing is sure, however: the course looks very interesting, with a good variety of roads, some narrow, technical and rough, others much quicker."
"We’re expecting it to be hot this weekend. It’s going to be a technically-difficult, demanding rally for the cars and that’s what we prepared for during our pre-event test in the Aude. I’m feeling pretty confident because I always produce decent performances on this kind of surface. And the C3 WRC is even more efficient and easier to drive than it was in Sardinia, which is the last event contested on similar types of road. We’re also going to be able to use some of the things we learned in Finland on this surface."
Khalid Al Qassimi
"I’m delighted to be back behind the wheel of my C3 WRC, especially at a new event. It’s always exciting to contest brand new stages for the first time, especially as we’re expecting fairly difficult conditions. I’ve always felt comfortable at events like this. I have some good memories of the Acropolis Rally, for example. It’s always a question of finding the right balance between pushing and looking after the car."
A RALLY, A CHALLENGE
The challenge of taking pace notes for the first time
At the rallies that appear every year on the calendar, the crews generally compile their pace notes beforehand for the stages or portions of stages that are unchanged from previous years. In recce, all they then have to do is make pace notes for any new sections and make a few corrections for the stages they are already familiar with. The situation will be different for them this year in Turkey, where they will need to draw up pace notes for each of the 313 kilometres of timed stages. This means the crews will have to pay very close attention during recce, to produce a precise and consistent description of the difficulties they will face. Once racing gets underway, they won’t be able to compensate for any shortcomings in their pace notes with knowledge of the roads. They will need to trust their pace notes fully, which may lead to large gaps appearing between the cars…
Didier Clément, Technical and Sporting Coordinator, recalls…
"I remember the very first time that Rally Turkey was held, in 2003, based in Kemer at the time. The rally was special for us because it was Citroën’s first win on gravel in the WRC, and it was also Carlos Sainz’s first victory with the team. It also came in just the third race of the season, in our first year full-time in the championship, and after the famous one-two-three at Monte. We were still relatively inexperienced on this surface and our mechanics produced a minor feat in every service, as they tried to compensate for the lack of strength of the Xsara WRC’s bodywork."
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