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Rally news round-up


Citroen licks its wounds after a tough time in the Rally of Norway, and an American announces he’ll rally in the NZ championship.

Loeb longs for gravel

February 27, 2007. Though he had a tough time in the Rally of Norway, world champion Sebastien Loeb is upbeat about the new Citroen C4 WRC's potential once it leaves the snow and ice and gets on to gravel.

"Our times on Friday's hard-packed surface (in Norway) confirmed our strong showing in Sweden and suggest that we shouldn't be too wide of the mark when we move on to gravel," he says.

Teammate Dani Sordo is also looking forward to the gravel rallies.

He says the snow and icy roads of Sweden and Norway deliver "a surface on which you need lots of experience if you want to be competitive and consistent.

"I haven't yet perfectly mastered the technique and I'm still too hesitant. (However), we shouldn't come across any more ice until next year and I don't have a problem with that.

"Now I'm simply looking forward to getting back on to dirt. The C4 promises to be quick when we move on to the loose in Mexico."

American for NZ Rally series

February 27, 2007. American Ken Block, the runner-up in the 2006 US rally championship, and winner of the recent second round of the American Rally Championship, will drive a Sam Murray FRAM racing team car in half of this year’s six New Zealand Rally Championship rounds.

His first event is the season-opening Rally of Otago on April 14-15.

The Subaru WRX STi he and regular co-driver, Italian born Alex Gelsomino will share is much the same as the car he rallies in the United States, right down to being left-hand drive.

However, it’s built to full Group N Production Car regulations, unlike the highly powered Open Class version Block drives in America.

That’s the reason Block views the New Zealand events as a good build-up to his plan to contest the Production Car World Rally Championship.

“One main reason I’m coming down to race is that I want more experience driving Group N production cars,” he says.

Block’s schedule also takes in the Whangarei round (May 11-13), and Rally of New Zealand on August 31-September 2. He may also contest the championship finale at Nelson.

Frequelin's prediction was spot-on

February 27, 2007. Citroen's World Rally Championship team scored just one manufacturers' series point in last month's inaugural Rally of Norway, its worst result since its full-time involvement in the WRC.

"The snowy Scandinavian rounds often haven't gone well for us," said team director, Guy Frequelin. "The last time we scored this sort of result dates back to Sweden 2005.

"The way (Norway) unfolded only serves to confirm what I often say: winning requires a big effort, but a tiny detail can cause even the best-laid plans to go wrong.

"The first day was quite positive, but Leg 2 proved more complex. SS9 didn't go well for us, with Dani (Sordo) making a mistake and Seb (world champion Sebastien Loeb) losing time.
"It was while trying to make up for this lost ground that he was caught out shortly afterwards. Fresh snow and thick fog made the conditions more than just tricky.

"That said, the result of these two events (Sweden and Norway) is far from negative. True, we had been hoping to come away with more points than we did, but the C4's overall showing on slippery surfaces means we face fewer unknowns (in) the next rounds.

"It shouldn't be forgotten either that Seb and Daniel posted the highest number of fastest stage times (in Norway).

"It is important now to build on the potential we saw on those stages that offered more grip. We have also learnt a lot about the car's reliability, with only a hydraulic problem in Sweden to report."

Norway was uncharted territory for most of the WRC field. Its stages were slower and twistier than Sweden's and included many bumpier portions.

Frequelin was under no illusions abnout the task that faced his drivers. After a pre-rally inspection of the special stages, the former ace driver said: "with all the blind corners, jumps and technically demanding portions I have just seen, I don't think this is going to be an easy rally."

How right he was.

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