Citroën Junior Team heads for the snow
Having scored its first very World Rally Championship points at the first round of the season in Ireland, the Citroen Junior Team aims to continue making progress in Norway. The Citroen C4 WRC crews of Conrad Rautenbach/Daniel Barritt and Sebastien Ogier/Julien Ingrassia that competed in Ireland will be joined by Evgeny Novikov/Dale Moscatt on the only snow rally of the 2009 calendar.

Thanks to Chris Atkinson and Conrad Rautenbach, the Citroen Junior Team managed to score its first World Championship points on the challenging Rally Ireland. With Sebastien Ogier also finishing sixth in the overall final classification, it was a very positive debut outing for the newly-formed team, which hopes to build on these achievements in Norway. For this second round of the season, Russian driver Evgeny Novikov – co-driven by the Australian Dale Moscatt (n°7) – and the Zimbabwean Conrad Rautenbach, navigated by Britain’s Daniel Barritt (n°8), will be nominated to score manufacturer points for the Citroen Junior Team. As was the case in Ireland, Frenchmen Sebastien Ogier and Julien Ingrassia have also been entered in a third Citroen C4 WRC (n°12).

After the rain in Ireland, the WRC competitors will now have to face the snow and ice of Norway. Run for the second time since 2007, this year’s route will take in some parts of the original itinerary. The snowy and icy roads are quite varied, with some sections that are narrow, twisty and bumpy.

Rally Norway also marks the appearance of the new Pirelli ‘Sottozero’, a studded tyre which runs on a normal 15-inch gravel rim. Temperatures below freezing are expected throughout all three days of the event, and there is always the chance of fresh snow adding to the existing layer shortly before the start.

The rally marks the start of the season for Evgeny Novikov, an up-and-coming Russian driver who is just 18 years old. Having spent a year in the Production Car World Rally Championship, Evgeny will join the Citroen Junior Team for eight rallies in 2009. He will get to grips with the driving style required for a WRC car at a test before the start of the Norwegian event. As will equally be the case for his team mates, Novikov’s primary objective on the Rally Norway will be to gain the maximum possible experience at the wheel of his Citroen C4 WRC.

Conrad Rautenbach and Daniel Barritt got their year off to a remarkable start on the opening day of Rally Ireland. But a mistake on Saturday prevented them from sealing an excellent result. “That’s all behind us now,” said the Zimbabwean. “We were able to regain our confidence with the car on the final day and work on the set-up. I’m really keen to get to Norway now. It should be a more straightforward rally for us and we’ve got some testing planned prior to the start. I’m going to be driving for two days in the test just to get used to competing on snow. I’ve not got a lot of experience on this surface but I’ve still got a good feeling in these conditions. Our goal is to score points. If we can keep up the same pace as we had on the first day of Rally Ireland, when we were in the top five, we should be well-placed to score a good result at the finish.”

Having also delivered a promising performance in Ireland, Sebastien Ogier and Julien Ingrassia will continue their voyage of World Championship discovery in Norway. “We learnt a lot in Ireland,” said Ogier. “The kilometres that we covered on an asphalt rally – if you could call it asphalt, in those extreme conditions – will be very useful for the future. Every time we get into the car we discover some new things and make progress.”

« The Rally Norway will certainly be more enjoyable, although not necessarily any easier,” added the reigning Junior World Rally Champion. “I can’t wait to be there although we’ll be up against people who have much more experience of snow rallies. I’ve already driven a Group N car in Sweden, and I’ll be able to have a day of testing before the recce. One of the key objectives of that test will be for me to get used to the tyres and the driving style needed on snow. Then, just like Ireland, the goal will be simply to get to the end of the rally without making too many mistakes. We’ll have to see where we are after the first few stages before we fix any targets in terms of results.”

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