28 Feb 08
For Rally Mexico the Citroen team has entered two C4 WRCs for Sebastien Loeb/Daniel Elena and Dani Sordo/Marc Marti, while a third C4 WRC, entered by Conrad Rautenbach/David Senior, will be run by PH sport with support from Citroen Sport Technology technicians.
The engine of Sordo’s C4 is the same one that completed the Swedish Rally, while following his retirement in Sweden, Loeb will start Rally Mexico with a new unit.
Citroen Sport’s technical manager, Xavier Mestelan-Pinon, says that performance on the season’s first loose surface event is an important indicator of the year ahead. “Once the first three events are behind us we will have a clearer picture of this season’s key players and of the areas in which we will need to improve in our bid to win the drivers’ and manufacturers’ titles.”
“The fact that the stages are repeated from one year to the next is something we need to take in to account,” continues Mestelan-Pinon. “The conditions could be rougher this time round and the high altitudes we visit - up to 2,700 metres - will again play a key role. Because of the lower atmospheric pressure, the engines deliver less power and their cooling systems work less efficiently. That said, this is known territory for us now and we took these parameters into account during our test programme for this rally.”
This will be Loeb’s fifth Rally Mexico. He won it in 2007 and 2006, was fourth in 2005 and retired in 2004. He also completed the recce in 2003, the year before the event joined the WRC. After crashing out of the most recent WRC round in Sweden, Loeb says he can’t afford to drop any further behind the man who now leads the 2008 battle, Mikko Hirvonen.
“When you make a mistake and drop points, you’re bound to feel a certain amount of pressure at the start of the following event,” said Loeb. “That will probably be the case for me in Mexico which isn’t a simple event. The stages are quite varied, with a mix of wide smooth roads and slower twistier portions. The tyre factor will be important, too. The hard packed surface generally gives good grip, but it remains to be seen how it goes with our new Pirelli tyres There is a also a question mark concerning whether the dropping of mousse run-flat systems will lead to more punctures. It’s a factor I will need to take into account in the way I drive, and I will also need to adapt my style to the low engine power in high altitudes. We won this event last year, so we know that the C4 WRC is competitive in Mexico, and the whole team has worked very hard since last year’s visit. I will still tackle it cautiously, though, because we can’t afford to let the gap with our rivals get bigger.”
This will be Sordo’s third attempt at Rally Mexico. He finished fourth in 2007 and 2006. “Mexico is something of a special event for me,” he said. It’s a long way from Spain but it feels a bit like home. I like the atmosphere and the spectators give us a warm welcome. Like their Spanish counterparts they let their enthusiasm show and it’s always nice to have their support. With the manufacturers’ championship in mind, it will be important to try and finish ahead of our rivals in order to pocket as many points as possible for Citroen. It won’t be easy, but I enjoyed good runs on my first two visits here. I feel at ease on theses stages and I hope I will feel as comfortable with the C4 in Leon as I did in Sweden. I will also try to profit from my running order on the first day.”