Conrad Rautenbach in Mexico leg2

Conrad Rautenbach in Mexico leg2From Conrad Rautenbach Press [ 02/03/2008 ].
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Conrad Rautenbach was never out of the top 10 times on day two of the gruelling Rally Mexico, which was played out under cloudless skies in ever-increasing temperatures on the dirt roads around Leon. Returning to the event after a broken track control arm ruled them out in SS3 yesterday, Rautenbach and his British co-driver David Senior were determined to show what they were capable of in the Citroen C4 WRC.

Despite only having completed a handful of competitive kilometres in the Citroen, the reigning FIA African Rally Champion set times as high as seventh quickest on the second pass of Derramadero - beating the time of factory Ford driver, and winner of the previous World Rally Championship round in Sweden, Jari-Matti Latvala in SS14. Having started 22nd in the morning, Rautenbach’s efforts through the longest day of Rally Mexico moved him to 16th by close of play.

Once again, the stages were a classic Mexican mix of high-speed sections interspersed with slow-speed hairpin bends. The Ibarilla stage, which kick-started the day-two action, demonstrated that mix perfectly. After climbing through the hairpins Rautenbach reported his longest spell in top gear in this stage; the altitude of the roads on Rally Mexico severely limits power coming from the turbocharged engines, which in turn restricted the top speed of the C4 to 180km/h for that exceptionally fast stretch of gravel road.

After a brace of runs through three punishing stages, none of which held any surprises for the 23-year-old, the second day was concluded with two attempts at the superspecial stage at Leon race circuit, where Rautenbach and the rest of the world’s fastest rally drivers put on a fantastic display to thrill the big crowd of wildly enthusiastic local rally fans.

Rautenbach didn’t put a foot wrong through the second day, gradually increasing his pace as he spent more time in the C4 and subsequently felt more comfortable with Citroën’s latest-specification rally car. This was highlighted by his increased pace on the second run at stages: he reduced his time in Ibarilla by 15 seconds. The only cloud over the event was the broken TCA on day one. Without that problem, Rautenbach and Senior would have been looking at a top six placing on their debut in a Citroen C4 WRC.

Technical:

The PH Sport-run Citroen C4 WRC completed today’s eight stages without any technical problems. The changes made during the mid-day service were alterations in the set-up to help Rautenbach’s confidence in the car and to give more grip on what would be a looser surface second time through the stages.

Conrad Rautenbach quote:

“Today was good, although it was tough. I found it quite hard to get a good rhythm, particularly in the slow stuff, and that’s where we’re really losing time. What’s difficult is the fact that the roads are changing a lot all of the time. The C4 is very different to the Xsara that we drove [on the previous three WRC rounds]. You sit much further back and seem lower down in the car, so it’s not easy to place it on the road sometimes.

We made a few changes to the set-up of the car at service at lunch time. They were just tweaks to the centre differential map and dampers, nothing major. The road has been quite rough where we’ve been running, as there have been quite a few rocks pulled out by previous cars and you have to try and avoid the worse of them. What happened yesterday was obviously disappointing, but with more time in the car we’ll get more used to it. It’s just a question of that really and that’s where the extra time is going to come from. I’m enjoying myself though. It’s a nice rally and the people here are really enthusiastic.

For tomorrow, it’s going to be more of the same. I don’t think we’ll make any changes to the car, we’ll just push on and see what we can do with a few more of the stages. It’s quite a short day tomorrow, though.”