Sébastien Ogier in second place
Rally Australia (3-6 September 2009) – Day 1

The 15 short special stages that made up the opening day of the Rally Australia allowed the Citroën Junior Team to shine. Thanks to five fastest stage times, Sébastien Ogier and Julien Ingrassia end the day in second place. Conrad Rautenbach and Daniel Barritt return to Kingscliff within sight of a points-scoring place.

Having acclimatised perfectly to the mild winter of the southern hemisphere, the Citroën Junior Team put in a brilliant performance on the opening day’s stages of the Rally Australia. Throughout the 15 short and sharp special stages – with only one exceeding 20 kilometres – the two Citroën C4 WRCs avoided all the problems posed by this fresh event in New South Wales.

Sébastien Ogier got stuck into the action perfectly by setting a pair of fastest times to take the overall lead after the opening two Tweed superspecial stages on Thursday night. On Friday, the reigning Junior World Rally Champion maintained a rapid pace on the sprint event to claim second overall behind Jari-Matti Latvala. « I’m particularly pleased to have found the right pace from the opening stage because this is something I have struggled with slightly up to now » he said. « I’m aware that we have enjoyed a good road position. There’s been enough wind to ensure that hanging dust has not been a problem and I’ve benefitted from good road conditions.

In the afternoon, the Frenchman put used tyres onto the front of his car to optimise his chances of another strong performance through the two Tweed superspecials held in town. « We needed to up our pace and attack in order to stay in touch with Jari-Matti » he explained. « While we were careful in the morning, it was important to push during the afternoon. On the final stage before the regroup, we were slowed down by dust over the final 200 metres. Our strategy at the end of the day worked perfectly and we managed to further reduce the gap to Latvala. We’re not asking ourselves any questions, and up to now we can be very pleased by the way that the rally has gone.

Conrad Rautenbach was 10th after the two Thursday night superspecials and he fought to get into the points throughout the opening day. He got past Khalid Al Qassimi in the morning and then set off in pursuit of Federico Villagra. « We had some electrical problems last night but this morning it was better » reported the Zimbabwean. « On the long stage I thought I had a puncture and I lost a bit of time because I slowed down. We found a good compromise with the car set-up though.

Throughout the second loop of stages, the C4 WRC crew continued to make progress. « It was a good day » concluded Rautenbach. « We were happy enough with the initial set-up on the car but we adapted it during the day to suit the characteristics of these stages. The car is working very well and I have a good feeling with it. We’re close to a point-scoring eighth place and that will be my objective for tomorrow…

Classification at end of day one:
1. Latvala/Antilla Ford Focus 53’21’’4
2. Ogier/Ingrassia Citroën C4 +2’’2
3. Loeb/Elena Citroën C4 +22’’7
4. Sordo/Marti Citroën C4 +22’’8
5. Hirvonen/Lehtinen Ford Focus +23’’6
6. H. Solberg/Menkerud Ford Focus +51’’3
7. Wilson/Martin Ford Focus +1’42’’4
8. Villagra/Perez Companc Ford Focus +2’04’’6
9. Rautenbach/Barritt Citroën C4 +2’27’’5
10. Mason/Mason Subaru Impreza +4’16’’3

Day 2 - Saturday 5 September: 619.10 km of which 113.45 km are competitive (10 stages, 6 different stages). Service D (05:30/15 min) – SS16: Dayco 1 (20.31 km) – SS17: Bosch 1 (18.75 km) – SS18: Armor All 1 (8.20 km) – SS19: Urliup (5.24 km) – Regrouping (11:22/20 min) – Service E (11:42/30 min) – SS20: Armor All 2 (8.20 km) – SS21: CTEK West 1 (8.59 km) – SS22: Dayco 2 (20.31 km) – SS23: Bosch 2 (18.75 km) – SS24: Tweed 5 (2.55 km) – SS25: Tweed 6 (2.55 km) – Service F (20:10/45 min) – Last car into parc fermé at 23:00.

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