Citroën Junior Team set for Mexico debut
Rally Mexico (4–7 March 2010) – Preview

Following the wintery conditions of the Rally Sweden, the Citroën Junior Team now changes continent and surface to contest the first gravel round of the 2010 FIA World Rally Championship season. Sébastien Ogier/Julien Ingrassia and Kimi Räikkönen/Kaj Lindström will drive the team’s two Citroën C4 WRCs.

Having appeared on the World Rally Championship for the first time in 2004, the León-based event features the most concentrated rally route on the calendar this year. In fact, a full 354.60 kilometres out of a total route length of only 884.58 kilometres are run competitively. Another peculiarity of Rally Mexico is that competitors will be driving at an altitude of almost 2800 metres at one point on the opening day (Ortega, SS2 and SS6). Citroën comes into the event fresh from three consecutive victories in Mexico, between 2006 and 2008. Nonetheless, the Rally Mexico will be an all-new experience for the Citroën Junior Team, which goes there for the first time.

Sébastien Ogier and Julien Ingrassia, who finished a brilliant fifth on the season-opening Rally Sweden, have some fond memories of their first visit to Mexico. In 2008, Rally Mexico marked the French crew’s World Rally Championship debut. They got their Junior World Rally Championship campaign off to a flying start with a momentous win.

“It was a career-defining moment,” remembered Sébastien. “I’ve got some very happy memories of Mexico. We had a lot to learn, but in the end we were able to win after a rally where we were forced to attack in order to gain an advantage, but then also moderate our pace in order to look after the car. I really like this rally as the stages are very flowing and progressive. The fans are especially enthusiastic in Mexico as well!”

Since making their World Rally Championship debut two years ago, Sébastien and Julien have climbed onto the overall podium (thanks to second place in Greece last year) and finished eighth in the 2009 World Rally Championship for drivers. In Sweden, their fifth place ensured that they beat several local Scandinavian specialists. So in Mexico, the French duo’s objective will be to at least equal that result. “We started the season well, with a top-five finish on our first visit to Sweden,” added Sébastien. “Our objective is to maintain this same pace throughout the season and get closer to the podium on the events that we know a bit already. “In Mexico, we start off with the advantage of having already driven eight of the 11 different stages in the C2 Super 1600. On top of that, we were able to prepare for this rally with a day of testing in Spain. If there’s a chance of finishing higher than fifth, we’re certainly going to go for it!”

Kimi Räikkönen and Kaj Lindström will continue their learning curve on the gravel of Mexico. Following their first rally on the snowy tracks of Sweden in February, the Finnish crew now faces a new challenge on a very different surface.

“What I love about rallying is that you have to be competitive on all sorts of different surfaces,” said Kimi. “After my experience on snow, now I’m going to find out about driving on gravel. I really don’t know what to expect, but that is all part of our learning process. I’m very much looking to driving the Citroën C4 WRC in these challenging conditions and getting as many kilometres under my belt as I can, in order to add to my experience.”

Three questions to… Kimi Räikkönen
Looking back on it now, what conclusions can you draw from your first event in the World Rally Championship with the Citroën Junior Team C4 WRC?
“The really positive thing is that we managed to cover all the stages on the Rally Sweden and we learned a lot. We could have done better overall had it not been for some small mistakes but we managed to improve our stage times as the rally went on. That was our initial objective. The second run through the stages was better for us. I also felt a big difference once I became more confident with my pace notes. With more experience, things should get increasingly easier.”

Mexico will be the first time that you drive the Citroën C4 WRC on gravel. Do you think that you will find this surface easier than snow?
“I’m really looking forward to starting the Rally Mexico. My impression is that driving on gravel should be a little bit easier for us. Or at least that’s what Marcus Grönholm told me! I reckon that we will find a more consistent level of grip on gravel. But for the moment I’m still lacking experience. I just need to get more kilometres in the car in order to get used to the Citroën C4 WRC in particular and rallying in general.”

How are you going to approach the Rally Mexico?
“My plan had initially been to take part in a test session on gravel, in order to get to know the Citroën C4 WRC a bit better on a new surface for me. But unfortunately I experienced a bit of back pain that stopped me from driving. I’ve had some treatment now but I preferred to rest before leaving for Mexico. Of course I would have liked to test the car before going, but it was important to recuperate in order to start the second rally of the season in the best possible physical shape.”

Useful information
Rally Mexico (round 2/13) (4-7 March)
Surface: gravel
Where: León
Practical information: The Service Park and headquarters are in the Poliforum Expo Center. The Media Centre is in the Expo-Feria on the Rally Campus. There is a seven-hour time difference between Mexico (GMT -6) and France (GMT +1). So when it is 1200 in León, it will be 1900 in Paris. On the first day of the rally, Friday 4 March, the sun will rise at 0704 and set at 1852. In March, the temperature ranges between 15°C and 30°C with dry conditions expected. The local currency is the Mexican Peso (MX Peso). 1 € = 20 MX Pesos.
Technical: The engines used in Mexico will be used again in Turkey and Portugal. The spare parts (gearboxes, differentials, front and rear subframes, steering racks and turbos) are shared with the Rally Turkey.
Tyres: Each crew will have a total of 36 hard compound Pirelli Scorpion tyres at their disposal, including six for the shakedown.
Reconnaissance: This will take place on Tuesday 2 March from 0700-1800 and Wednesday 3 March from 0700-1730, with a maximum of two runs through each special stage. The maximum permitted speed is 90kph, except when local signs indicate a lower limit.
Shakedown: Thursday 4 March between 0800 and 1200 at San Juan de Otates, which is located 15.9 kilometres away from the service park on a 5.13-kilometre stage.
Press conference: Thursday 4 March at 1330 in the Media Centre.
Start ceremony: Thursday 4 March in front of the Alhòndiga de Granaditas at Guanajuato from 2000.
Route: The total route length is 884.58 km, of which 354.60 km are competitive. There are 22 special stages (11 different stages in total).
Final podium: Sunday 7 March, from 1300.
Final press conference: Sunday 7 March, 1345 in the Media Centre.

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