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The Monte Carlo Rally returns after three years to the World Rally Championship as the opening event in 2012.

Citroën previously won five times in the principality with Sébastien Loeb and Daniel Elena. In 2012 Mikko Hirvonen and Jarmo Lehtinen, winners of the 2010 Monte Carlo Rally, will make their debut with Citroën  behind the wheel of a DS3 WRC

The WRC gets underway in Valence, France on January 18 as drivers make their way to Monaco on January 22, 2012. The route will take the competitors through the Ardèche, Haute-Loire, Vercors and Alpes-Maritimes regions.

The route comprises 430km of timed sections and 18 special stages, offering a real challenge for drivers, a headache for engineers and a delight for spectators.

Here are the Citroën team principal and drivers thoughts ahead of the 2012 season.

Questions to Xavier Mestelan-Pinon, Citroën Racing:

Q: What are the main technical developments carried out on the DS3 WRC for 2012?

MP: “Our car is always developing, sometimes with very minor changes. Having said that, three noteworthy changes have been made to the car for the start of the season: a significant engine upgrade, a new clutch and an altered electrical circuit.

"We have also worked with Michelin on adjusting the set-up of the cars, with the supply of new tarmac tyres which offer greater protection against punctures. The arrival of Mikko Hirvonen has also enabled us to improve certain points on the handling of the DS3 WRC by taking advantage of his extensive experience and knowledge.”

Q: What are the main challenges of the Monte Carlo Rally?

“We had to trawl through our archives for information with this rally back on the WRC calendar! In fact, the first challenge involved bringing together all the information that we have collected about the rally in order to prepare as well as possible, both from a technical perspective and in terms of team organisation.

"And then you have the changing and varied weather conditions, which make tyre choice complicated. The difference in the car’s handling according to the choice of tyres – suited to the road surface or not – can really be very significant and create huge differences in the times.

"More generally, for the entire season, we want to do everything we can to ensure our driver pairings feel as comfortable as possible in their cars. This is already the case for Loeb and Elana, but we’ll be trying hard to adapt to the needs of Hirvonen and Lehtinen.”

Questions to Sébastien Loeb:

Q: How do you feel that the Monte Carlo is back on the WRC calendar?

Loeb: “It’s a no-brainer: the Monte Carlo rally has to be in the World championship. It is the world’s most famous rally; you just can’t have a world championship without it! It’s also a rally where I have always done well. The roads are very enjoyable to drive and there is always a great roadside atmosphere for the special stages.

"And let’s not forget this is Daniel’s home rally. I’m sure he’d rather be on my right in the DS3 WRC than behind the wheel of a DS3 R3 like last year!”

Q: You begin 2012 with two new team mates. How is your relationship with Mikko Hirvonen?

L: “I’ve only ever known Mikko as a rival, so it’s nice to be working on the same side now. We get on well and I think we have a lot of respect for one another. We’ll have to change our working habits a little and communicate in English, but I think that is a fairly positive thing.

“For the time being, we have the same feeling about the car, but that was already the case with my previous team mates. Mikko has lots of experience and has moved from a team with a very fast car. I am sure he will bring new ideas on board and that will help us to improve.”

Two questions to Mikko Hirvonen:

Q: Thoughts on joining Citroën Racing?

Hirvonen: “I was immediately struck by the very warm welcome that was extended to me. I have found a team full of people who are passionate about what they do. I have been especially impressed by the rigour of the working methods and the care taken over every detail.

"Although the team is predominantly French-speaking, there have been no communication problems. I already feel very much at home, both with testing and the technical meetings at the plant, I have already spent a lot of time with various members of the team.”

Q: Does Loeb's No.1 status at Citroen bother you?

“No, I see this opportunity to work with Sébastien as being of great benefit to my career. It’s not about being number one or two. We all start the season with no points on the board and the 2012 regulations will make racing fairer, both for team mates and rival drivers.

"To some extent, it’s fairly natural that the team expects more of Sébastien; he has been with them for ten years and has been World Champion for the last eight years running.

“That takes a little bit of the pressure off me, so I’ll be able to take the time to become totally accustomed to the car, the team and how it operates. In any case, I always try to adopt a positive approach to situations, that tends to be the best way to make progress.”


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