A challenge for Citroën in Viking territory
In the wake of its one-two finish in Ireland, the Citroën Total World Rally Team heads for Norway. The specific features of the season’s only winter fixture makes it a unique challenge for Sébastien Loeb/Daniel Elena and Dani Sordo/Marc Marti.

Like Rally Ireland, Rally Norway has only counted towards the World Rally Championship on one previous occasion. Meanwhile, hasty comparisons between this event, which is hosted by the small town of Hamar, and the Swedish Rally should be avoided. "The two rallies are very different," observes Sébastien Loeb. "The Swedish stages tend to feature long, flowing corners, whereas the terrain in Norway presents us with another sort of technical challenge. The roads are twisty, narrow and bumpy in places and it’s quite difficult to get a global feel for them."

Citroën doesn’t have the fondest of memories of its visit to Norway in 2007 when Sébastien Loeb and Dani Sordo both failed to finish in the points, something which has never reoccurred since! "The 2007 event was particularly difficult because we faced a layer of fresh snow on top of the sheet ice underneath," recalls Sébastien Loeb. "I had a great deal of trouble spotting the places where the grip changed and I never really felt comfortable. I hope it won’t snow this year so that we will be free to drive flat out on a nice coating of smooth ice! If the conditions do turn out to be like that, running first on the road could well be an advantage on the opening day." Sébastien’s analysis is shared by his team-mate Dani Sordo: "Soft snow can be a problem for traction. At times, it almost feels as though you’re aquaplaning…"

From the technical angle, Rally Norway will see the introduction of the new studded Pirelli Sottozero which is wider than the tyre used last year. "We have tested with it and it felt good," agree both Citroën drivers. "The 2008 tyre had a tendency to move about a bit, but that has been attenuated by the wider dimension."

The team’s pre-event testing also enabled the team’s engineers to work on the set-up of the C4 WRC, but Sébastien Loeb doesn’t believe that set-up makes such a big difference on this sort of terrain. "The important thing is driver confidence as you put the car sideways through a fast corner," says the fivetime World Champion. "We worked on the suspension and differential settings, but the C4 WRC is a far more polished package than it was in 2007 when it was only at the beginning of its development."

As usual, Sébastien Loeb and Daniel Elena go into this rally with the intention of winning. Along with Rally Poland, which is a new feature of this year’s WRC calendar, the Rally Norway is the only round of the 2009 calendar which doesn’t figure on the Franco-Monegasque pair’s list of 48 world class wins, so that is sure to add to their motivation. Like his team-mate, Dani Sordo is acutely aware of the challenge that awaits him in Norway: "I’ve put my modest performance in 2007 behind me and, anyway, so much has changed since then. I have more experience, considerable work has gone into the car and our recent testing has also helped boost my confidence. I’m not saying that snow has become my favourite type of surface, but I am extremely fired up to play my part in scoring another top result for Citroën following our recent success in Ireland."

"After kicking off the season on asphalt, we now move on to a very different sort of terrain," comments Citroën Sport Director Olivier Quesnel. "It’s true that we are not favourites to win in Norway but we will do our best to spring a surprise! The engineers and crews have worked hard to prepare for this specific event and, with just 12 rounds counting towards this year’s WRC, we will need to profit from every opportunity we are given to extend our lead in both championships."

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