With five podiums, including an important one-two finish in Argentina, Mads Østberg and Kris Meeke have taken Citroën Total Abu Dhabi World Rally Team to second position in the Manufacturers’ World Championship standings coming into the final round of the season.
The DS 3 WRCs head into Wales Rally GB needing to defend a four-point lead if they are to finish second in the Manufacturers’ championship.
Based in the north of the country for the last two years, Wales Rally GB retains all of the characteristics that has made it one of rallying’s unmissable events. The route, like the conditions, are well known to the competitors. Rain, fog and mud are the essentials ingredients that combine to make the stages through the Welsh forests some of the trickiest on the calendar.
Regardless of the weather, the grip levels change on the stages as more cars complete, and from one stage to the next. The roads are fast throughout, but the crews must identify – starting in recce – the sections that provide sufficient grip and those that are as slippery as black ice, if they are to keep out of trouble.
For the technical team, operations will be kept to a minimum during the race. The first service is not scheduled to be held until the end of the first leg. On Saturday, the crews will complete seven stages and 109 kilometres before they return to Deeside to prepare for two evening tests and the final day features another uninterrupted succession of timed stages.
In order to be fully prepared for this round, the Citroën Total Abu Dhabi World Rally Team drivers took advantage of a substantial test session before taking part in recce, with the opportunity to fine-tune the set-up of the DS 3 WRCs.
Fourth in the Drivers’ World Championship, Mads Østberg has always enjoyed good results in Wales. In nine previous starts, he has produced some fine performances, finishing second in 2011 and third last year in the #ds3wrc.
For Kris Meeke, competing in Wales is almost like a home event. The Northern Irishman, who contested his first ever rally in the region, finished sixth here in 2014 with Citroën #racing. He currently lies fifth in the Drivers’ standings.
Winner of the 2014 FIA Junior #wrc, Stéphane Lefebvre has been driving a #ds3wrc since Rallye Deutschland. In Wales, he will be able to call upon the experience acquired over the last year in four-wheel drive cars, as he looks to continue learning about rallying in the World Championship.
Yves Matton (Citroën #racing Team Principal): “The main objective of this final round of the season is to hold onto our second place in the manufacturers’ standings. We will be able to call upon the experience of our team at this specific event. Mads Østberg and Kris Meeke have had the opportunity to prepare for the final round with a test session, to help them get a feel for what is a very demanding, slippery and muddy course. Our strategy will be similar to the one we have used successfully since September. This is practically Kris Meeke’s home rally and Mads Østberg has always been quick here. Their aim will be to keep their rivals at bay and maintain our lead in the championship. How we manage things from a sporting perspective will obviously need to be fine-tuned as the race unfolds.”
Mads Østberg: “Wales Rally GB is always a great event. I really like this rally; I have done well here several times in the last few years. The character of the roads is rather particular. It’s quite easy to get a good rhythm, because the stages are pretty smooth and the roads are very fast. The weather also plays a big role. In 2011, I remember finishing second here and since then, I have been competitive every year. I think we have a chance of getting another good result here. It is important to finish the season well, but we mustn’t get side-tracked from our main goal. In Wales, the goal is to defend our second place in the manufacturers’ standings. So, I’m going to push, whilst also focusing on the job I have to do for the team. It would be great to finish on the podium, like last year.”
Kris Meeke: “This is more or less my home rally and there’ll be lots of supporters out for us. I took part in my very first rally in these forests, so they are very familiar to me and I have my bearings on these roads. I love the region and the course, with the surface that can be muddy and slippery. It’s cold and dark, it all adds to the special atmosphere of this race. Having said that, I don’t have as much experience at this event as the drivers who have competed here for the last ten years. The majority of the stages are held on natural roads where the driving is smooth. Inside the car, you sometimes get the feeling you’re fighting the elements and that just makes it even more fun to drive. We know what we have to do, we have to finish second in the championship. So we have to try and finish in front of our rivals and, if possible, on the podium.”
Stéphane Lefebvre: “Like in Germany, I’ll have the advantage of being familiar with some of the stages at Wales Rally GB. Above all, it will be a return for me to the place where I first contested a full rally in four-wheel drive car. I loved competing here last year in the tricky conditions. I’m going to try and have a good race and use the experience I have acquired throughout the season. My aim will be to get as close as possible to the leading drivers’ times and produce a few good performances.”
A TEST OF ENDURANCE
The shakedown will be held on Thursday 12 November between 8am and 11am at Clocaenog Forest on a 3.32-kilometre stage. The ceremonial start will be held in Llandudno in the evening, but the rally proper won’t get underway until early on Friday morning from 6.30am.
After a long road section, the crews will tackle a loop of three stages. Following Hafren (32.14km), Sweet Lamb (3.33km) and Myherin (30.23km), a regroup in Newtown will enable the crews to change tyres before they complete second runs on the same stages. The leg will conclude with the opening 45-minute service in Deeside.
On Saturday morning, the WRCs will set off from Deeside even earlier, at 5am, for Gartheiniog (11.34km) with the stage due to start at 7.29am, seven minutes before sunrise. The day will continue with Dyfi (25.86km) and second runs on Gartheiniog and Dyfi before Dyfnant (19.02km), Aberhirnant (13.91km) and Chirk Castle (2.06km). After these two sections, featuring 109 kilometres of timed stages, the crews will head back to service to prepare for an evening loop on Dyfnant and Aberhinant. The crews are expected back in Deeside from 9.17pm.
The rally and the 2015 season draws to a close on Sunday with four stages, without a service break: Brenig 1 (10.64km), Alwen (10.41km) and Great Orme (4.74km) with Brenig 2, the Power Stage, broadcast live on television from 12.08pm. The rally is scheduled to finish in Deeside in the early afternoon.
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