26 Sep 08
Part two - the Guy Frequelin legacy. How Citroen's ex team principal led from the stages.
Guy Frequelin did things differently. It was almost a trademark for Citroen's former team principal; he was a pure sportsman. Not for him commercial realities or a bottom line, Frequelin was driven by the simplest of needs: stopping the clock faster than anybody else.
Frequelin took over the position in 1989 and when he departed at the end of 2007, having overseen Sebastien Loeb's four consecutive world championship titles, he left some big shoes for the incoming Olivier Quesnel to fill. Wise to the potential pitfalls of trying to emulate his predecessor, Quesnel swapped the shoes and did things his way.
Frequelin's competitive nature came from participation in motor sport at the highest level, both on the racing circuit and the rally stage. In 1977 he was part of a four-car Renault team on the 24 Hours of Le Mans with a Alpine Renault A442B, as part of driver line-up which included legends like Derek Bell, Jacques Laffite and Rene Arnoux. Engine troubles meant neither car finished the race that year. He tried again in 1981, his time in Peugeot P79/80, but an engine fire forced the car out after 46 laps.
Fortunately for Frequelin things went far better on the rally stages. In 1981, he ran Ari Vatanen a close second for the World Rally Championship. His mastery of cars like the Lotus Sunbeam or Opel Manta 400 is well documented, but it was Frequelin's shift to team management which delivered the real results for Citroen.
Shaking Frequelin's hand drew an immediate understanding of his nickname, 'Grizzly'. There was no messing with him. He wanted Citroen to win and, once the agreement was in place for the Xsara T4, nothing but the best would do. The car rarely stopped testing at the Satory circuit near Versailles. In fact it only stopped running there to go and eat up some more specialist kilometres in the south of France or up and down the boulder-strewn roads of central Greece.
Thanks to Frequelin's top-down implementation of a policy of drive and determination, the Xsara WRC hit the ground a winner waiting to happen. And once it started to win, it didn't stop. And the more the Frequelin run team won, the more it looked like winning.