One of the sport’s ultimate challenges, this rally requires the crews to switch from gravel to tarmac without any time to adjust. It also calls for the cars to be equally quick on gravel on day one as they are on tarmac over the following two days. Meanwhile, the mechanics and engineers have to pull off a significant feat to switch from one configuration to the other in a limited space of time. Winner of the last two rallies held here, Citroën Total World Rally Team has already proven its ability at this tricky exercise. The team has won in Catalonia a total of eleven times, including five (2010, 2011, 2012, 2017 and 2018) since it became a mixed-surface event. With Sébastien Ogier and Julien Ingrassia, who are three-time winners of this event themselves (2013, 2014 and 2016), Citroën has a strong case for success this weekend and therefore harbours genuine hopes, even though the French crew will clearly not be helped by running second on the road on Friday’s leg. However, buoyed by recent testing in the C3 WRC, they head into this weekend’s rally determined to turn things around in the championship.
Starting from what will be a better road position (7th) provided the weather stays dry on day one, Esapekka Lappi and Janne Ferm could also be serious contenders for a top-five spot, whilst also being important allies for Sébastien and Julien. This is especially the case as Esapekka is clearly now very comfortable in the C3 WRC on gravel, reflected in his second place finishes in Finland and Turkey, and his past experience in karting may prove valuable on the tarmac stages, which are held on wider, circuit-like roads.
In order to give themselves the best possible chance of success, the French team held a big four-day test in Catalonia, almost exclusively devoted to improving the competitiveness of the C3 WRC on tarmac (three days). Whilst no-one in the team is getting carried away and everyone is fully focused on the job in hand, the progress made during the test have raised hopes of being able to fight all the way in the championship.
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