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Citroen Bid for Kiwi Win to Maintain Championship Lead - (Global)

August 25th, 2008

Citroen Sport arrives on the other side of the Tasman this week for the 2008 Rally of New Zealand (28-31 August 2008) – the nearest the World Rally Championship comes to Australia this year – fresh from wins in Germany and Finland, gifting them the lead in the manufacturers’ title chase and putting four time World Championship winner, Sébastien Loeb at the front in the battle for the 2008 drivers’ title, but New Zealand will be no holiday – the Citroen team is promising maximum attack to keep its championship leads.

In addition to cars for Loeb and his team mate, Dani Sordo, Citroen is also providing Citroen C4 WRC cars for privateers Urmo Aava and Conrad Rautenbach in New Zealand for the 11th round of the 2008 World Rally Championship in a bid to enable the Citroen C4 WRC to follow in the footsteps of its predecessor, the Citroen Xsara WRC, which Loeb guided to victory in 2005.

For the third year running, the Rally New Zealand is based in Hamilton, and the route focuses essentially on the east coast of New Zealand's North Island with 16 stages totalling 354.58km.

While New Zealand provides drivers with one of the rallying calendar's finest terrains, the teams must necessarily address a complex technical challenge.

"The stages are neither rough nor bumpy; the difficult lies elsewhere," explains Citroën Sport's Technical Manager Xavier Mestelan ¬Pinon. "We have had to take three chief factors into account when establishing the basic set¬up of our C4 WRCs for New Zealand: the fact that we will be using hard compound tyres in probably cold and even perhaps damp conditions, the fact that it is no longer possible to 're¬-cut' tread patterns for stages covered in a top ¬coating of loose gravel and, last but not least, there is the specific profile of the stages.”

“The cambered roads feature a relatively steep slope towards the inside of the corners. When you get sequences of right¬ then left corners following on from each other, the cars have to cross the sort of ridge you get as you pass from one turn to the next, which is a profile I suppose you could liken to the form of a propeller. The combination of all these factors promises to make this year's visit a particularly challenging event."
For World Champion, Loeb, returning to New Zealand is another stage in an on-going love affair with Kiwi roads.

"I have always enjoyed this rally ever since I first came here in 2002," admits Sébastien Loeb. "The lush green backdrop to the stages is magnificent. The stages are fast and technically demanding, but the cars don't suffer. From the driving point of view, it's certainly one of my favourite events."

"We narrowly missed out on victory last year by just three¬ tenths of a second after one of the most thrilling fights the WRC has ever seen. I won't be able to take revenge this time, though, because Marcus Grönholm isn't around anymore," smiles Seb. "It nonetheless promises to be a very close three days of competition. We will be first on the road, but just how big a handicap that turns out to be will depend on how damp the conditions are. There are quite a few stages that we will only contest once, so we potentially stand to lose quite a lot of time. That said, the fact that we will be first on the road on Day 1 means that we are on top in the championship, and we intend to do all we can to defend that lead! The key will be to find a set¬up for our C4 WRC that works with the Pirelli Hard tyre. The set¬up we ran in Finland was very good and I had a great feeling with my car. It will be up to us to find ourselves in the same sort of position in New Zealand."

After finishing fourth in Finland and second in Germany, Dani Sordo and Marc Martí will be out to continue their current run of success as they travel to the southern hemisphere.

"It's a long way to get there, but I love the New Zealand stages and also the country itself," says Dani who has moved up to third place in the provisional Drivers' championship standings. "You can really just focus on your driving without fear of damaging the mechanicals, and that's very nice! This is only my third visit, of course. The pace is so quick that it's essential to have a good feel for the terrain and I still perhaps lack sufficient experience. That said, our performance in Finland suggests that a good result is possible. Indeed, there are a few similarities between the two events, so that will be a big confidence booster in New Zealand. I'm expecting it to be very close again, and I intend to approach the three days very cautiously, although I would very much like to target another podium finish."

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