01 Feb 10
A dominating performance in the Arctic Lapland rally at the weekend has left Citroen factory team driver Dani Sordo feeling more confident about his chances of success in Rally Sweden, the opening round of the World Rally Championship, which gets underway on 11 February.
Sordo and co-driver Marc Marti took an easy win on the Rovaniemi-based rally - the opening round of the Finnish Championship - which they tackled as part of their pre-season test programme.
Driving the same C4 WRC they will campaign in the 2010 World Championship, they faced little real challengers on an event which doesn't normally allow World Rally Car entries. His Citroen stable-mate, Kimi Raikkonen, was the only other competitor in a top level car, while Estonian Ott Tanak was the only other WRC entrant, in a 2003 specification Ford Focus.
Throughout the rally, Sordo didn't put a foot wrong. The Spaniard set 12 fastest times in as many stages and felt his driving on ice and snow had benefited from the experience. "I enjoyed myself so much that I would happily have driven on for a few more stages!" he said. "This weekend went well, run in perfect conditions, and we were able to carry out some useful work with the team.
"Of course, there was no real pressure. All the more reason for us to drive a very disciplined event! After looking at the data with the engineers, it’s clear that we’ve made consistent progress. That gives me a lot of confidence as we head into the new season, which is just a few days away now."
After an awkward start to his World Rally Car driving debut, when he lost more than 30 minutes after an accident soon after the start, Raikkonen completed the rally in a positive frame of mind. Throughout the two days of the rally, the gap between Dani and the Finn stayed consistent at around eight-tenths of a second per kilometre.
"Things didn’t exactly get off to the best start as we went off the road during the second stage," explained the Citroen Junior Team driver. "But luckily there was no mechanical damage and I was able to continue in the rally. From there it got a lot better for me and we were much more consistent. We put a few more kilometres under our belt, which was vital to help us continue learning the C4 WRC. As well as being pleased by our performances I was also pleased by the way we were able to work with the team.
"We developed our set-up in the right direction and now we are going to continue our work in order to arrive in Sweden in the strongest possible position."
Benoit Nogier, Citroën Racing Technologies team manager, concluded: "This practice event allowed the team to make more progress in preparation for the Rally Sweden.
Dani drove exactly the sort of rally that we expected from him. He was fast and consistent, growing in confidence on the surface that comes least naturally to him. As for Kimi, he was quickly able to put his mishap at the start of the rally behind him and get to the end of a complex event, whilst improving at the same pace as Dani."