Citroen Mexico report & interview Budar

Citroen Mexico report & interview BudarFrom General Article [ 12/03/2018 ].
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Kris Meeke and Paul Nagle ended the rally third overall, securing a second podium of the year for Citroën Total Abu Dhabi WRT and thus confirming the team's very strong start to the season. Meanwhile, Sébastien Loeb and Daniel Elena finished fifth overall - after having boldly held the rally lead - as they pulled off a remarkable return to their favourite racing category. With a series of narrow, winding sections on the day's opening stage, followed by quicker roads for the two passes on Las Minas, today's final leg was anything but a Sunday stroll.

Unfortunately, Kris Meeke found this out to his cost on the opening test. His 10.9s overnight advantage on the third-placed driver disappeared when he skidded on the cobbles under braking, losing 47.5s and dropping a position in the standings. He nonetheless managed to hold onto third place until the end of the rally and therefore take his first podium of the year. Citroën Total Abu Dhabi WRT claimed its second podium in the stifling Mexican heat to go with the one secured by Craig Breen in Sweden's wintry temperatures. The Northern Irishman is now fourth in the drivers' championship.

Second on the road this morning, a position that prevented him from getting among the frontrunners, Sébastien Loeb made the most of these last few kilometres on gravel with the C3 WRC, whilst safely making it to the end in fifth place. A consequence of the puncture he picked up yesterday when leading the rally, the result does not reflect the full majesty of his performance this weekend on his return to his first love.

At an event that is very demanding on the cars, the C3 WRC scored eight stage wins (two tied), once again proving its reliability and performance level. Thanks to the points claimed this weekend, Citroën Total Abu Dhabi WRT closed to within one point of second place in the manufacturers' championship.


Kris Meeke

"Obviously, there are positives to take away from this weekend, starting with the fact that I secured my first podium of the year and picked up good points for the championship. But I can't help but feel disappointed, not least for the team. I had everything you need to win here in Mexico - the pace, the car and road position - but I didn't do the job. I made too many silly mistakes and you just can't get away with that at this level. I need to tidy my game up, starting in Corsica where we were very competitive last year."

Sébastien Loeb

"Coming into the rally, I felt that testing had gone well, but I obviously had no certainty about my level, bearing in mind that everyone is fighting over tenths of a second, and that it doesn't take much to find yourself left behind a little bit. So it was a nice surprise to be on the pace! I'm just a bit frustrated that I wasn't able to test myself properly against the others right to the end because of the puncture. In any case, it was a very good weekend and that was the initial aim of this comeback. I hope I can now go on to get a good result in Corsica, even though I'll still have quite a few things to refamiliarise myself with."


How would you assess this first rally of the season on gravel?
Well, Kris' third place is obviously positive in terms of points as it means that he moves up the standings in the drivers' world championship. It is also our second consecutive podium this year, which suggests that we are certainly moving in the right direction, and it also means that we have closed to within just one point of second place in the manufacturers' world championship standings. Having held the overall lead for a while on day two, and even had both C3 WRCs briefly in the top three, we might well have hoped for an even better result, but that's racing for you!

The other source of satisfaction must be the majestic performance of Sébastien Loeb and Daniel Elena…
Yes, that's the least you can say! We know all about their talent, but they have literally blown us away here, even managing to set fastest times on stages that they have not contested before and taking the lead right in the middle of the battle. On that basis alone, they definitely deserved a podium place. It may seem slightly perverse for nine-time world rally champions, but they paid a heavy price for their lack of knowledge of the tyres now used in the WRC when they had their puncture. Let's hope that it's only a matter of time and they get their podium place at the Tour de Corse! In light of the performance they produced this weekend, I can't really see how they won't be just as able to get among the frontrunners.

What is your view of the performance of the team?
I would like to take this opportunity to warmly congratulate each and every one of them because they have all produced high quality work! With eight stage wins at a rally renowned for being one of the most demanding for the cars - but also for the human body - due to the altitude and the heat, we finished the event as best performer among the manufacturers, which shows how extremely competitive we are. And what's more, we did it without the slightest technical problem. That's not a question of luck, it comes down to relentless hard work and dedication. It is also yet further evidence of the constant progress made by our C3 WRCs.


Fourth overall at that point, Sébastien Loeb claimed his first stage win of the weekend on the second run on El Chocolate (31.44km) during Friday's leg, whereas he was 14.6s off the pace on the first pass. Co-driver of the French ace since 1998, Daniel Elena knows him better than anyone. He gave us his analysis of this stunning performance, incredibly achieved on a stage they had not contested before this weekend…

"It's simple, it's absolutely typical of Loeb! He analysed his 'below-par performance' on the first pass, and put it right on the second run. He doesn't make the same mistake twice! He then drove that stage in typical Loeb fashion, i.e. clean as a whistle, whereas he had pushed too hard in the morning. It was the fact that it was Dani Sordo who had set the fastest time on the first pass that had got him thinking, because Dani also has a precise driving style on twisty, technical sections. I can't honestly say I was surprised by anything this weekend, except perhaps that we didn't make the right call with the puncture. I always thought that it was possible to make this kind of comeback, I know what he's like. I think he has only got better since we retired from the WRC. The WTCC gave him something else, as did cross-country rallying and rallycross, which helped him to work on his reflexes, with him being constantly sideways in a 560 horsepower car!"