Citroen: We're underdogs in Norway
|By Matt Beer||Friday, February 6th 2009, 11:09 GMT|
The Citroen team say they will be the underdogs in next week's Rally Norway, despite dominating the World Rally Championship season-opener in Ireland.
Sebastien Loeb has only won on snow once in his career, in the 2004 Swedish Rally, and crashed when Norway last appeared on the calendar in 2007.
"The 2007 event was particularly difficult because we faced a layer of fresh snow on top of the sheet ice underneath," Loeb said.
"I had a great deal of trouble spotting the places where the grip changed and I never really felt comfortable. I hope it won't snow this year so that we will be free to drive flat out on a nice coating of smooth ice."
Ford could not match Citroen in Ireland, with Mikko Hirvonen finishing two and a half minutes behind in third place, but Loeb expects the tables to turn next weekend, especially as Ford swept the 2007 Rally Norway podium.
"I am expecting them to respond, beginning with Rally Norway where we won't be the favourites," he said.
"Ford should be more at home in Norway and will be extremely keen to profit from this rally to make up for lost ground.
"I don't know yet whether I will be able to stand in their way, but it's a very stimulating challenge! I enjoy this sort of event and I have very fond memories of my win in Sweden in 2004, so perhaps adding another victory to my record in Norway isn't entirely out of the question."
Loeb's teammate Dani Sordo also crashed in Norway two years ago, but expects to be much stronger this time.
"I've put my modest performance in 2007 behind me and, anyway, so much has changed since then," he said.
"I have more experience, considerable work has gone into the car and our recent testing has also helped boost my confidence. I'm not saying that snow has become my favourite type of surface, but I am extremely fired up to play my part in scoring another top result for CitroŽn following our recent success in Ireland."
The Citroen Junior Team are also playing down their chances for Norway. With Chris Atkinson still working on a deal to return to the team later in the season, the PH Sport-run squad are fielding Russian teenager Evgeny Novikov alongside Sebastien Ogier and Conrad Rautenbach. As all three drivers are short on snow experience, team boss Benoit Nogier said the rally will be a learning experience.
"Evgeny will be finding out how to drive a WRC car, while Sebastien will be competing on only his third rally with one and discovering the complexities of driving on snow," Nogier said.
"As for Conrad, he only has one Swedish Rally behind him so far in his career. So we have to be realistic about our prospects."