Loeb and Elena in pursuit of their eighth title

WALES RALLY GB – 10-13/11/2011

Sébastien Loeb and Daniel Elena, who hold all the records in the FIA World Rally Championship, find themselves up against a new challenge. The Citroën Total World Rally Team crew will start Rally Great Britain with the aim of winning their eighth title, a unique feat in the history of motor sport.

Sébastien Ogier and Julien Ingrassia in the second works DS3 WRC will be out to finish the season on a high note.The FIA World Rally Championship, which began on the frozen roads in Sweden in February, will finish in the Welsh forests. Cold, rain and mud are on the Wales Rally GB menu and the event will be run on a route that has undergone major changes compared to the previous rallies. The start will be given on Thursday in Llandudno in the north of the country. The stages will be concentrated around the little town of Builth Wells. The cars will not return to Cardiff except for the parc fermé and the podium.

In Rally Spain, the Citroën Total World Rally Team won its seventh World Manufacturers’ title, and it istackling the last round united behind Sébastien Loeb and Daniel Elena. The seven-time world championshave won five rallies this season (Mexico, Sardinia, Argentina, Finland and Spain) and they are aiming fortheir eighth title on the trot.

“The scenario’s like the one in 2009. We started Rally Great Britain neck and neck with Mikko Hirvonen andwhoever finished in front of the other was world champion,” Sébastien Loeb remembers. “Obviously, it’s lessstressful trying to win the title when it’s not the last event. You can say to yourself that in case of problemsthere will be other match points! This time it’s now or never! We’ll just have to ignore the additional pressurecaused by what’s at stake.”

Loeb has an eight-point lead over Hirvonen in the Drivers’ World Championship ratings. “With a seven-pointgap between victory and second place and three points for the best time in the Power Stage, it’s not a verycomfortable situation,” says the Frenchman. “My aim won’t be to win at any cost but to run my race dependingon Mikko’s. It doesn’t matter to me if Ogier, Solberg or Latvala are in the lead provided I’m in front of myrival.”

Like Sébastien Loeb, Sébastien Ogier has been on the topmost step of the podium five times this season(Portugal, Jordan, Greece, Germany and France). The driver of the no. 2 DS3 WRC is no longer in the runningfor the world title after his retirement in Spain, but he is assured of a place in the top three in the 2011World Rally Championship. “I’m happy to be back racing in this event, even if it doesn’t have only goodmemories for me. As the manufacturers’ title is already in the bag, I can drive without any pressure wherescoring points for the team is concerned. Finishing on the podium would be a good result for me. With regardsto the Drivers’ World Championship, Seb is determined to be master of his own destiny by finishing infront of Mikko. But it’s obvious that if circumstances require it I’ll do everything I can to help him win thetitle.”

“In Rally Spain we achieved our first objective with Citroën’s seventh world title. The make is very proud ofthis,” declares Olivier Quesnel, the Citroën Racing Team Principal. “We’re up against a new challenge inGreat Britain, and it won’t be easy as Mikko Hirvonen is especially quick on this type of surface. We’re tacklingthe event with calmness, determination, serenity and humility. Loeb and Elena are never as strong aswhen they’re faced with these extreme pressure situations.”

Three questions to Sébastien Loeb

Almost three months elapsed between your victories in Finland andSpain. Did your sixty-seventh win come as a relief?

“That’s one way of putting it! Winning Rally Spain wasn’t all that obviousand I really had to fight hard in the first two legs. The third day was particularlystressful as we had to make the right tyre choice in unstable weatherconditions. I really needed that victory to tackle the last event of the seasonin the best conditions. But there’s no sense in getting carried away, I’vestill got a long way to go to win the world championship.”

You’re up against Mikko Hirvonen again. What do you fear abouthim?« Mikko’s very strong mentally speaking in these kinds of situations. Aboveall, don’t underestimate him. He’s dominated some rallies head andshoulders. At the mid-season mark he said he didn’t believe in his chancesof winning the title. But the way the recent rallies have panned out haveput him back in the running. In some ways, he really hasn’t got anything to lose and he’s going to seize hischances. Being second holds no interest for him. He’s going to push right from the start to go for victory.He’s certainly going to set the pace in the race.”

You’ve won the last three rallies in Great Britain. How are you going to tackle this event whose routehas been considerably revised compared to the one you know?

“I don’t yet have a really clear idea of what awaits us, but it’ll obviously make things a bit more complicated.The new stages will require increased concentration during reconnaissance and more work on the on-boardcamera videos. We’re more at the mercy of a trap than in a stage we’ve known for ten years. That’s really theever-present threat we have to cope with in this rally: I may have won it three times but it was always hangingby a thread at one moment or another. I’ll do two days’ practice in Wales the previous weekend to fine-tunemy preparation for this event. This will help me to be in tip-top form.”

Wales Rally GB  Round: 13/13  Base: Cardiff Service park: Royal Welsh Showground - Builth Wells Surface: gravel Weather: Oceanic climate. The start of winter can lead tosnow falls. The weather frequently changes during the sameday. Average temperatures between 5 and 10°C. Sunrise and sunset on the first day of the rally: 7h27 /16h25 Local time: GMT. Currency: the pound sterling. Internet site: walesrallygb.com Technical information: the gearboxes, differentilas, frontand rear sub frames, steering boxes and tirbos are sealed andlimited in exchange between Finland, Australia and GreatBritain. Tyres: 42 Michelin 17/65-15s Latitude Cross S1 (soft) forthe shakedown and the whole rally.

 Reconnaissance: Monday 7th Novembeer (7h30 – 16h45)and Tuesday 8th November (7h30 – 16h30). Shakedown: Wednesday 9th Novembre from 9h to 13h. Press conference: Wednesday 9th November at 14h in theMedia Centre. Start: Thursday10th Novembre at 14h30 in Llandudno. Route: 1883,73 km, including 358,59 timed km. 23stages (11 different) Podium: Podium 13th November 15h20. Final press conference: Sunday 13th November at 16h00in the Media Centre

ROUTEThursday 10th NovemberStart: 14h30 (Llandudno)SS1: Great Orme 1 (4,74 km)SS2: Great Orme 2 (4,74 km)SS3: Clocaenog (16,65 km)Remote Service A (Llandudno) : 18h10Friday 11th NovemberStart: 5h40 (Llandudno)SS4: Dyfi WSSt 1 (10,27 km)SS5: Dyfi East 1 (6,72 km)SS6: Gartheiniog 1 (20,44 km)SS7: Dyfnant 1 (21,28 km)Service B (Builth Wells) : 11h59SS8: Dyfi WSSt 2 (10,27 km)SS9: Dyfi East 2 (6,72 km)SS10: Gartheiniog 2 (20,44 km)SS11: Dyfnant 2 (21,28 km)Flexi Service C (Builth Wells) : 18h12Saturday 12th NovemberStart: 6h00 (Cardiff)Service D (Builth Wells): 8h00SS12: Hafren 1 (32,14 km)SS13: Sweet Lamb 1 (4,26 km)SS14: Myherin 1 (27,88 km)Service E (Builth Wells): 12h15SS15: Hafren 2 (32,14 km)SS16: Sweet Lamb 2 (4,26 km)SS17: Myherin 2 (27,88 km)Flexi Service F (Builth Wells): 16h33Sunday 13th NovemberStart: 4h50 (Cardiff)Service G (Builth Wells): 6h50SS18: Halfway 1 (15,00 km)SS19: Crychan 1 (23,87 km)SS20: Monument 1 (4,37 km)Service H (Builth Wells): 9h28SS21: Halfway 2 (15,00 km)SS22: Crychan 2 (23,87 km)SS23: Monument 2 (4,37 km)Service I (Builth Wells) : 12h45Finish: 15h03 (Cardiff)