A record for Novikov and the Citroën Junior Team
The Citroën Junior Team continues to make progress. On the first day of the Acropolis Rally of Greece, the Citroën Junior Team won two special stages thanks to Evgeny Novikov / Dale Moscatt and Sébastien Ogier / Julien Ingrassia. The Russian therefore becomes the youngest driver in the history of the WRC to set a fastest stage time !

Despite the cancellation announced several days ago of one of Friday’s stages, the opening day of the Acropolis Rally of Greece was feared by several competitors. The crews left Loutraki at 08:30 for a 500-kilometre loop of stages, which took them to the foothills of Mount Parnassos and a remote service halt in Itea. With this scenario being the case, it was vital to look after all the mechanical components of the car on rough roads and with temperatures reaching 40°C.

Having finished within the points for the first time in Sardinia, Evgeny Novikov and Dale Moscatt got their rally off to a good start by occupying a provisional sixth place by the time they reached service in Itea. On the Bauxites stage (SS4) Evegny Novikov topped the time sheets – a first for a Russian – and also became the youngest driver in the history of the World Rally Championship to set a fastest stage time. « I pushed really hard » he said. « I’m very happy to have set this fastest time. We managed to take advantage of our road position and the good grip that came with it. This was one of the objectives that I had set myself before coming here. » Unfortunately, a double puncture in the next stage cost the Russian more than three minutes, who slipped down to 12th overnight.

Sébastien Ogier and Julien Ingrassia started off cautiously in the opening stage but progressively increased their pace and eventually set the fastest time in Drossohori (SS5) a 24-kilometre stage that reached 1400 metres in altitude. « It’s always good to have something like that under your belt ! » said Ogier. « It’s very satisfying to put in a performance like this on a rally that is so tough. We took a lot out of our tyres today. We will need to take more care of them tomorrow. »

By applying a careful strategy, Conrad Rautenbach and Daniel Barritt made sure of a place in the top 10 throughout the day. They returned to Loutraki in ninth place, just a few seconds off seventh overall. « We’ve had a good day but we lost a bit of time in the dust this afternoon. I think that the second day is going to be even more tough for the tyres. We’ll try and keep up the same pace in order to reinforce our position in the classification. »

«We’ve got several reasons to be cheerful », said Benoit Nogier, the Citroën Junior Team manager. « The performances from our team mean that we continue the good work we started in Sardinia. Fastest times from Evegny Novikov and Sebastien Ogier – the first ones from them all season – are good for morale and underline all the good work we have done. These performances have even more value as they were achieved on one of the most complex rounds of the season. The difficulties we had with preserving our tyres is proof of that. Tyre wear will be the big theme of day two as well and this is naturally a cause for concern for the entire team. Looking after the tyres will be a key factor in converting our performances to some good results on Sunday. »

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