The second leg of the 2009 RallyRACC Catalunya saw the domination of the C4 WRCs continue with a further full-house of fastest times. The two Citroën Total World Rally Team crews spent the day trading the lead, but it is finally Sébastien Loeb and Daniel Elena who will start the last leg on top, less than two seconds ahead of Dani Sordo/Marc Marti. Citroën appears to have an excellent chance of securing its fifth consecutive one-two finish on the Spanish asphalt classic.
Competitors were once again greeted by glorious sunshine as they headed for the first group of stages, with the day’s programme based on the event’s now-traditional format of three tests in the morning repeated in the afternoon.Dani Sordo kicked off the leg with a cushion of 1.6 seconds over his team-mate, but Sébastien Loeb was fastest on today’s first stage El Priorat-La Ribera d’Ebre (SS7), the longest of the weekend. The result of the test put the five-time World Champion exactly level with his team-mate in the overall standings: “I think I drove well, and it was important to look after our tyres over the full 38 kilometres.” The Frenchman then came second behind fellow Citroën driver Sébastien Ogier on SS8 to go clear at the top. Dani Sordo responded on the following test, however, to recover the lead… by less than a second!
“This morning was great fun,” admitted the Spaniard back at the service area in Salou. “Our pace was sufficiently quick to stay concentrated, but without taking any risks. The gap over Mikko Hirvonen has increased and we intend to keep up the same sort of momentum this afternoon.”
“Dani and I both know that the important thing is to stay on the road, but we are driving as we feel… and we feel comfortable. This fight between us is enabling us to stay focused. In any case, it’s practically impossible to drive a WRC any other way than quickly,” explained Sébastien.
True to their word, the two Citroën Total WRT crews continued at a similar pace after the lunchtime service break. Mindful of the need to play it safe, however, they both carried two spare wheels for the afternoon’s loop. After claiming another fastest time on SS11 (Les Garrigues 2), Sébastien Loeb eased back ahead after SS12 (La Llena 2): “It’s been a good team effort with Dani today. I had to take the lead at some point because it’s vital that I win here to give myself the very best chance of winning the title. I enjoyed today’s stages. There’s only one true asphalt event on the calendar this year, so I’ve been trying to make the most of it.”
“The situation as its stands is perfect for Citroën, too,” observed Dani Sordo. “We mustn’t forget, though, that there’s still another full day of competition and six more stages to come, so nobody’s entirely safe from an unpleasant surprise. We will need to keep our eye on the ball to the very end to make sure we conclude our run with a one-two finish.”
A much-anticipated C4 World Rally Car, intended to replace the multiple World Rally Championship-winning Citroën Xsara WRC, was first sighted in 2004 with testing duties assigned to double world rally champion Carlos Sainz. Having once been earmarked for a late 2005 competitive debut, the decision by the controlling PSA Group to withdraw both Citroën and stablemates Peugeot from works participation at the end of the 2005 season led to the momentary abandonment of the project.
Since then, however, the marque etched in a comeback for the 2007 season during which a revived C4 WRC was scheduled for its official debut, with the then-thrice world champion Sébastien Loeb as the official first driver, and Daniel Sordo, the 2005 Junior World Rally Champion, later confirmed alongside him after an impressive 2006 season for the Spaniard. In its official debut, at the 2007 Monte Carlo Rally, the two C4 WRCs finished 1-2, with Loeb winning ahead of Sordo. Loeb subsequently secured both the 2007 and 2008 Driver’s titles, with Citroën claiming the 2008 Manufacturers’ Award.