The Citroën Junior Team starts with style
Some remarkable performances from Sébastien Ogier / Julien Ingrassia and Evgeny Novikov / Dale Moscatt have allowed the Citroen Junior Team to place two C4 WRCs in the top eight at the end of day one. Conrad Rautenbach and Daniel Barritt end the day just off the top 10.

The Rally de Portugal got underway last night (Thursday) with an extremely popular spectator superspecial in the Algarve Stadium, which was built especially for the Euro 2004 football tournament, in front of a full house of Portuguese fans. More than 30,000 people watched the dramatic opening test of the rally.

Running through the west of the Serra do Caldeiro, today’s first full day of competition took place in balmy weather on the classic gravel stages around the host city of Faro. Amid the Mediterranean heat and dust the competitors battled not only with outright speed but also with one eye on strategy as, under these conditions, each day’s starting order takes on an important role.

French pairing Sébastien Ogier and Julien Ingrassia were careful through the opening stages, before ending the day with a series of promising times. « Even starting eighth on the road, the stages were still not clean, » Ogier said. « We steadily increased our pace but my main objective was to drive a fault-free rally. Once we had checked our pace notes, we were able to increase our speed. I’m really enjoying these stages and as a result the times are coming to us. It’s been a satisfying day and I hope to carry on in this way tomorrow. »

Russian ace Evgeny Novikov and Australian co-driver Dale Moscatt were also able to up the pace as the day went on. « The roads were very slippery but I had a very good feeling on the final stage of the morning, » Novikov said. « In the afternoon, I was held up by the dust of the car in front of me. We need to make a few small adjustments to the set-up of the car for tomorrow and then I am going to try and push a bit harder. »

Zimbabwean driver Conrad Rautenbach and his British co-driver Daniel Barritt lost a little time in the morning before recovering to finish 11th at the end of the day. « I had some problems with the brakes that we were able to fix after SS3» Rautenback said. « I’ve got a good feeling with the car. I hope that I can continue in the same way tomorrow to make up even more places in the overall classification. »

Benoit Nogier, the Citroen Junior Team manager, drew an extremely positive conclusion. « We’re very pleased with the way that this first day has gone » he commented. « The Citroen Junior Team showed both speed and consistency. Our crews are making clear progress and they enjoyed an excellent second loop of stages in the afternoon. We simply hope now for more of the same tomorrow. »

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