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Citroen accepts young drivers' errors

Evgeny NovikovCitroen bosses have played down the errors made by Junior Team drivers Sebastien Ogier and Evgeny Novikov on the final day of the Cyprus Rally.

The satellite Citroen squad had been on course to get all three cars in the points until Novikov rolled out of seventh place on this morning's first stage.

Ogier then became stuck in a ditch 200 metres from the rally finish while trying to stay ahead of Stobart Ford's Matthew Wilson in their battle for fifth.

But Citroen team director Olivier Quesnel said he expected mistakes from his young drivers, with both Ogier and Novikov in their first seasons with World Rally Cars.

"Sebastien Ogier and Novikov are quite young, this is why we call this the Citroen Junior Team," said Quesnel.

"Novikov did some rolls. Seb did one yesterday and it would not have been too bad to finish fifth. But 200 metres before the stage finish he made a mistake. We must remember one year and a half ago he was with a standard (Peugeot 206 Cup) car.

"We will see later on (in their careers). It is not a problem for me."

Conrad Rautenbach was the only one of the Junior trio to reach the finish, taking a distant sixth place.

Citroen Junior team manager Benoit Nogier admitted that his squad had hoped for better results, but said the strong stage times his drivers had set made up for their mistakes.

"It is disappointing for us to see only one of our cars at the finish. But the crews all set promising times throughout the weekend," he said.

"Evgeny set off at a good pace this morning, but he went off the road during the first stage this morning and sadly he was not able to get back on. Sebastien had beaten Matthew Wilson and needed only a few hundred metres more to seal a good result.

"The next rally, in Portugal, should be a little bit easier for our drivers - who are all still learning."

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