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GP Week : Issue 43
>>GPWEEKOPINION rind of MotoGP! have every reason to be pleased with its ad, which runs before what will doubtless be a clip of many hits. With MotoGP at the crossroads both technically and financially, it goes without saying that any new sponsor is welcome. Moving into the ‘Adult’market opens up all sorts of possibilities. But let’s not get too ribald … In any case, this is not the first-time a quality top- shelf glossy has been involved with high-level bike racing: Penthouse backed the British Suzuki team way back when. Or an under-the-counter mag, come to that: the highly nefarious and extremely hard-core OKM (Austrian Contact Magazine) was a stalwart sponsor of 250 rider Andy Preining in the 1990s, and on occasion porn star Dolly Buster graced the paddocks, generally with a few fluffers in tow – much to the agitation of hordes of mechanics, who would drop their spanners and follow the entourage round wagging their tails and hanging out their tongues like a pack of dogs. One can’t quite see Dorna going that far. But who knows what next? Who knows where the enterprising Cecchinello or another team manager will lead them? And who cares? After selling cigarettes for two decades, almost anything else is an improvement. unch Team Citroen or Ford. The Ford option seemed to be a bit more expensive. The problem with the Citroen situation was that he was told right away he could not have a C4 WRC, so what to do – go heavy and drive a Focus, or have some fun with an eight year old Xsara WRC? The biggest struggle of course was financial, but Petter had raised enough money to get the programme started in time for Rally Norway. His biggest supporter is logistics businessman Johs Lunde who is very much the Eddie Stobart of Norway. The team have almost a full budget to do the rest of the season, with only an entry in Australia currently in doubt, assuming there are no unforeseen disasters lying in wait. The car may be eight years old but it is only three years behind other cars in development and, obviously, Petter is keeping his eye open for other opportunities. Recently he tested a Fiat Grande Punto Super 2000, to discover what the next generation World Rally Cars will be like. As for the present, Ken Rees explained “For the moment he is happy to continue where he is. Randy De Puniet – someone had to do the PR gig! What we notice is that the Xsara is short on top- end performance. On a slow and twisty rally like Cyprus, Petter can keep up with anyone. “Also, the Xsara does not have launch control. On every stage we can see that Petter will have lost a second or so by the time the first splits are shown, all down to launch control. You can say that the car starts off with a 25 second deficit on every rally. “People have suggested that Citroen deliberately sold Petter a car in detuned specification, but I would not agree. The specification of the car is at the same level as the final version Xsara.” It is a very happy team. Rees: “It is clubman rallying at World Championship level! Everyone gets along well with each other, the whole aspect of the team is having fun. “Our service park area is open house, there are no closed doors, everybody is welcome to share our fun and Petter is there to greet them all. Last December I personally thought I had left the World Championship but in the end I only missed Ireland. “For me I have 224 rallies behind me and I am still going strong. This is a nice team … which would never have happened if it wasn’t for the credit crisis …” 23 Petter Solberg and Ken Rees