10 Jun 08
Citroen-Total team leader Sebastien Loeb says he’s aiming to extend his lead of this year’s drivers’ championship by taking his 42nd WRC win on the forthcoming Rally of Turkey.
Ahead of round eight, Loeb leads the drivers’ championship by a single point from the man he says is his biggest rival this year, Mikko Hirvonen of the BP-Ford team.
Loeb took the lead in the drivers’ contest on the first rally of the year, but lost it to Hirvonen on round two when he crashed in Sweden. Victories in Mexico and Argentina enabled Loeb to retake the number one spot by five points, but Hirvonen snatched it back in Jordan following Loeb’s second retirement of the year.
Wins in Sardinia and most recently Greece moved Loeb back to the lead he currently occupies, and it’s a place he is determined to hold onto.
“It took two wins in a row to retrieve top spot, so there is no question of letting it slip from our grasp again," said Loeb. “But I know Turkey won't be easy. The stages are very varied, with a big range of difficulties. On top of that, my last participation on this event was three years ago because my shoulder injury prevented me from starting in 2006."
Like the previous round in Greece, Loeb reckons tyre preservation and road position will be two of the critical success factors. "The result could well depend on how well we succeed in looking after our tyres,” said Loeb. “Once again, Daniel [Elena, co-driver] and I face the delights of 'road-sweeping' and that promises to be a big handicap, unless the conditions are damp. The work Citroen Sport has put in with the C4 WRC means we will have a competitive, reliable car. To boost our chances and those of Citroen in our respective championships, we will be targeting victory, but I think we can expect a big fight."
Loeb’s opinion is shared by his team-mate Dani Sordo. "It was in Turkey that I claimed my first fastest time on the loose," said Sordo. "I've only done the event once, but it went well for me. I like the stages. You can drive with a slightly freer mind than you can in Greece because they're not so hard on the car.”
After losing the lead in Greece because of a series of punctures, Sordo says he’s going to be judging his pace more carefully in Turkey. “To keep up the sort of good runs I've been enjoying recently on gravel, I need to learn to adapt my driving to the condition of my tyres,” he said. “I know the C4 is capable of challenging for victory, and I'm also aware that everyone in the team is behind me, pushing me forward as they did a fortnight ago. It will now be up to me to profit from all that."