Loeb, Elana up for Argentina

2013-05-02 07:54

VILLA CARLOS PAZ, Argentina - Round 5 of the World Rally championship, Rally Argentina, will see the much-anticipated return of Sebastien Loeb and Daniel Elena in the No.1 Citroen DS3 WRC.

The nine-times World champion pair will line up with Mikko Hirvonen and Jarmo Lehtinen for the Citroen team. As was the case in Sweden, Dani Sordo and Carlos del Barrio will be in the team's WRT’s car.

Rally Argentina is one of the WRC’s special rounds, much like Monte Carlo and Finland, with passionate crowds and the sublime beauty of the surrounding.


Citroen has been on the podium since Carlos Sainz won in 2004; and then followed by Loeb with seven consecutive wins.

The event kicked off on Monday (April 29) - a day earlier than in recent years - and the three-day rally is scheduled to finish on Saturday (May 4).

The route is made up of conventional stages with plenty of long tests. The two runs on Ascochinga/Agua de Oro (51.88km), Santa Rosa/Villa del Dique (40.69km) and Amboy/Yacanto (39.16km) make up almost two thirds of the total distance of the timed sections.

Loeb and Elena will start their third rally of the season with their sights clearly set on maintaining their record here – they have been unbeaten in Villa Carlos Paz since 2005.

Loeb said: “It’s difficult to say whether not competing in the last two rounds will affect my pace at the start of the rally, but I'll be aiming to secure the best possible result!"

Mikko Hirvonen pushed Sebastien Loeb all the way in 2012, before making sure of a 1-2 for Citroen.

The Finn hopes to see the same spirit in the 2013 rally: “Since the Rally of Portugal we have tested and taken positive steps forward in the set-up of the DS3 WRC. After finishing as runner-up in the last two rallies, I’m certainly aiming to be even faster here and to win my first race of the season."

Dani Sordo, the third Citroën Racing driver competing in Argentina, has also finished as runner-up in 2009 on his last outing in a C4 WRC. In 2012 the Spaniard was running in third place in his first race in a Ford Fiesta, but was then disappointed by  mechanical failure.

Portugal saw him at the front, making him determined to underline his growing confidence at one of his favourite rallies: "I love Argentina! It’s a rally where I feel pretty much at home. In Portugal I felt revitalised in the DS3 WRC. I could do what I wanted with the car and I think I could’ve challenged for the win.

"I’m not going to get too carried away, however, because the conditions in Argentina will be very different. But I’m certainly on the right track!"


You seem to have been very busy in the last few weeks. Have you had any time to relax?
"Not really. Whenever I thought I’d have some free time, I found myself busy, more often than not at the wheel of a racing car! After Argentina, I’ve got four other racing weekends. I think I’ll only be spending something like two days at home in May, but I can’t really complain – I was the one that chose to accept the opportunities that came up.

"I’m even busier than I have been in recent years, but it means I can work on my ability to adapt and acquire some experience geared towards the plans I share with Citroen. 2013 is the year we had to do all of this. I can learn how to do nothing later."

Did you get the chance to follow Rally Mexico or Rally Portugal? What did you think about them?
"Obviously! It wasn’t always easy for Citroen faced with a rival that was already managing to combine very high levels of performance and reliability on a state-of-the-art car. But the season isn't over yet, because winning a thirteen round championship where all the rounds count also requires consistency.

"We saw that the DS3 WRCs were quicker in Portugal than in Mexico, so that suggests that the team is making progress. It also confirms that the DS3 WRC is more comfortable when there is a high level of grip."

How have you prepared for this Rally Argentina? Do you feel ready to go after an eighth consecutive win?
"Apart from one day of testing, I haven’t driven on gravel since the 2012 Rally de Espana. So I don’t know what sort of feeling I’ll have on the first few stages in Argentina. I think that you can lose your rhythm pretty quickly, and that’s why I’m cautious about my chances.

"There’s no denying the fact that I have pretty much moved on from rallying and am now focussed on the future. This reduced programme is a good way to continue to compete for Citroen in 2013, but I’m not as well-prepared as Mikko, Dani and the other guys. We’ll see what happens when we get our helmets on."