Citroën Junior Team tastes Bulgarian asphalt
Rally Bulgaria (9-11 July 2010) – Preview

The second part of the 2010 FIA World Rally Championship gets underway with the Rally Bulgaria. On its World Championship debut, the Balkan country hosts the crews in the town of Borovets, the oldest ski resort in Bulgaria. Sébastien Ogier / Julien Ingrassia and Kimi Räikkönen / Kaj Lindström will defend the colours of the Citroën Junior Team on the event.

Of the seven rallies still to come, four will be on asphalt. Two of them will be on known territory in Germany and Spain, while the other two are completely new events in Bulgaria and Alsace. In order to prepare for the second half of the season, with its strong asphalt bias, the Citroën Junior Team has been testing in France and also took part in the Rally della Lanterna in Italy.

“This has allowed our drivers to stay match fit so that they are in the best possible position heading into the second half of the season,” explained team manager Benoit Nogier. “We have been working on how to get the best use and performance out of Pirelli’s new tyres. This experience will be very useful for the rallies still to come.”

As the roads will be new for all the World Rally Championship competitors, the Citroën Junior Team crews will suffer less from their comparative lack of experience relative to the other crews. “It’s the first asphalt rally of the season,” added Nogier. “It’s not necessarily the surface that we’re going to be the most comfortable on. As has been the case since the start of the year, our objective is simply to take away as much experience as possible on the forthcoming rallies. That will be our watchword with Sébastien and Kimi.”

Sébastien Ogier and Julien Ingrassia, the winners of the recent Rally of Portugal continued their winning streak on the Rally della Lanterna. “That was a different type of thing, but it’s all good for the confidence,” said Ogier, who is currently second in the World Championship standings. “Rally Bulgaria will be new for everyone so we are at less of a disadvantage even though we still lack experience. From what we know the roads will be fast and quite flowing with a lot vegetation at the side of the stages. A lot of the corners will be hidden so it will be extremely important to have good pace notes.”

Ogier continued: “The second half of the season might not be so easy for us. The goal for this first asphalt rally will be to make progress and again get closer to the frontrunners, while hoping that we can challenge for a podium.”

The best result for Kimi Räikkönen and Kaj Lindström so far has been fifth in Turkey, and now they get to discover a new surface. “Now we start a new chapter,” said the former F1 World Champion. “After snow and gravel, here we are on asphalt. It’s something that I’m really looking forward to. I had a really good feeling during the tests and I hope to be able to show that on the roads in Bulgaria.”

Three questions to… Kimi Räikkönen
How did you get on with the Citroën C4 WRC on asphalt so far?
“I was keen to drive on asphalt since the very start of the season. From the very first few kilometres in testing, I had a really good feeling with the car. That feeling was confirmed when we took part in a rally in Italy, which I enjoyed hugely. Even if we missed out on victory on the final special stage, we can only be pleased with our performance. The whole team helped us a lot on our asphalt debut. The experience that we’ve built up since the start of the season is beginning to pay off.”

Is being on asphalt an advantage for you?
“Even though I’ve spent several seasons in Formula One, the asphalt you find on circuits is not at all comparable to what we will encounter in rallying. Formula One and rally are two completely different disciplines. In the WRC, we will be competing on a number of different asphalt rallies with very diverse characteristics. You can’t compare the Rally Bulgaria with the Catalunya Rally, or with the roads in Germany or France. In just one stage you can go from wide and flowing roads to narrow or bumpy sections. The grip levels change from one corner to another too. It’s also vital to have a good feeling with your co-driver and the pace notes, as well as being able to make the most of a well-balanced car. ”

What do you expect from the Rally Bulgaria?
“It’s certainly going to be a very different type of playing field, and that is one of the things I like most about rallying. The flip side of this is that rallying is a very hard sport for anybody new to it. This first asphalt rally of the season will be a very important part of my learning process in the WRC. I’ve realised that it vital to pick things up as you go along and not try to run before you can walk. My objective is to get to the finish and completely understand my Citroën C4 WRC. We’ll see where we are at the end of the first day and then try to close the gap to our rivals.”

Useful information
Rally Bulgaria (round 7/13) (8-11 July)
Surface: asphalt
Where: Borovets
Practical information: The service park is at the Dolna Banya airport, 25 kilometres from Borovets. Rally HQ and the Media Centre are in the Hotel Rila in Borovets. There is a one-hour time difference between Bulgaria (GMT + 3) and central Europe (GMT + 2). So when it is 1200 in Borovets, it will be 1100 in Paris. On the first day of the rally, Friday 9 July, the sun will rise at 0558 and set at 2104. In July, the highest average temperature is 28°C. The local currency is the Lev (1 EUR = 1.9566 BGN).
Technical: In Bulgaria, the cars will use the engines that were already used in Turkey and Portugal. Spare parts (gearboxes, differential sets, front and rear subframes, steering racks and turbos) will be shared with Germany.
Tyres: There will be two different types of Pirelli tyres made available. In total, 40 tyres can be used, selected from a pool of 40 hard-compound tyres and 20 soft-compound tyres.
Reconnaissance: These will take place on Tuesday 6 July from 0800 to 1900 and then on Wednesday 7 July with a maximum of two passes through each special stage. The maximum speed allowed is 70kph.
Shakedown: Thursday 8 July between 0800 and 1200 at Momin Prohoud, on a 2.65-kilometre stage that is located nine kilometres from the service park.
Press conference: Thursday 8 July at 13:30 in the Media Centre.
Start: Thursday 8 July at the Hotel Rila Park from 2000.
Route: Total length 1069.56 km, of which 354.10 kilometres are competitive. In total there are 14 special stages (seven different stages).
Final podium: Sunday 11 July, from 1400.
Final press conference: Sunday 11 July at 1500 in the Media Centre.

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