Three Citroën Racing Technologies-prepared DS3 WRCs complete Rally Sweden■Al-Attiyah scores first manufacturer team points for Qatar World Rally Team■Neuville finishes seven stages in the top-10 to continue learning curve
Rally Sweden, with its very specific road conditions, was the venue for Nasser Al-Attiyah and Giovanni Bernacchini’s first competitive outing in the Citroën DS3 WRC. The Qatar World Rally Team crew achieved their goal by reaching the finish without making any mistakes. It was very much the same story for Thierry Neuville and Nicolas Gilsoul (Citroën Junior World Rally Team), who learned a lot throughout the three-day event.
After he missed Rallye Monte-Carlo to take part in the Dakar Rally, Nasser Al-Attiyah began his WRC programme with Citroën Racing at this season’s only winter rally. On a surface with which he is certainly not familiar, the Qatari knew he would have to show restraint and focus on accumulating experience. “My aim is not to set fast times, it is just to get to know the car, the team and their working methods better so we can prepare for the gravel rallies. I'll therefore be going at a sensible pace,” confirmed Nasser.
Throughout the three days of the rally, the Qatar World Rally Team driver stuck very precisely to his plan. Making changes to the set-up of his DS3 WRC from the half-way stage of the rally onwards, he felt that the confidence acquired here would be extremely useful to him for the rest of the season: “I came into this rally having done very little testing. I am pleased to have completed all the stages and I enjoyed driving here. By trying different set-ups, I was able to assess the way that the car responded on the road. Although the next rally is on gravel, the experience acquired here on ice will be very useful. I am also very happy to have scored the Qatar World Rally Team’s first points in the Manufacturers’ World Championship.”
Also still learning about WRC, Thierry Neuville had started with a similar mindset to Nasser. Growing in confidence as he negotiated more stages, the Belgian produced some good performances, finishing in the top 10 on seven of the 24 stages.
“This was the first time I have driven in conditions like these, so it was all new to me. Sometimes, I had to make a lot of corrections to my pace notes, which were a little bit optimistic,” specified the Citroën Junior World Rally Team driver. “When I felt good in the car and the road conditions were less tricky, I pushed more and my times were better. I think this experience also means that I will go into the next few rallies with a little more confidence.”
Peter Van Merksteijn Jr. and Eddy Chevaillier also made it to the finish without making any mistakes. “This is an achievement for me,” said the Dutch driver. “I was worried about being caught out by the many pitfalls at this rally, but I managed to find the right pace to enjoy myself in the car. Driving on ice is great fun!”