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GP Week : Issue 66
n Loeb: 1 + 1 contract Citroen Racing chief Olivier Quesnel confirmed at the start of the event that Loeb has signed a one year contract with an option for a second year, and that Sordo has signed for one year. A communique to this effect is expected soon. This seems to end the hopes for a full works drive with Citroen in 2010 for Petter Solberg. n Commenting on the apparently crazy fight for the lead between Loeb and Sordo, Quesnel said "My drivers are very experienced and know our objectives so there is no point to ask them to go slower. I will just let them carry on and enjoy themselves." n 10 years ago in Spain Citroen became the only company to win a full World rally with a two-litre, two-wheel drive Kit Car, a feat they repeated shortly afterwards on the Tour de Corse. After that four-wheel drive cars have won every World rally. n Also 10 years ago on this event Sebastien Loeb began his world championship career, at the wheel of a Citroen Saxo KC. n Evgeny Novikov's Citroen C4 WRC is now painted in corporate blue, white and red, not his usual yellow, following a new support agreement from Citroen Russia. All three Citroen Junior cars looked smart in a more uniform colour scheme. n Novikov had a moment of stress before the rally began. His recce car engine failed on the motorway going to the stages and he had to return to base to rent a car before his work could start. This was to be his first appearance with new co-driver Stephane Prevot. n Yoann Bonato, the protege of Didier Auriol, withdrew from the event after breaking an ankle He was to have forsaken his usual Swift Super 1600 and instead driven a Suzuki Swift Sport in class N2, hoping thereby to qualify for what has now become a redundant Rookie's championship. n Technically there was little new on the event. The Pirelli Star Driver Lancer Evo Xs were fitted with new aluminium sumpguards to overcome the tendency experienced in Finland for nosedown landings, which damaged the old guards. n 70 cars started the event, the second biggest field in this year's championship. n This was the first time an asphalt World Rally had been run without the advantage of gravel note crews. The organisers provided their own safety system with Derek Ringer, former co- driver of Colin McRae and currently an active competitor in the America championship. n IRC co-driver Nicolas Klinger made a rare appearance on a WRC event, beside Thierry Neuville, who was making his first rally outside his native Belgium. By running near the tail end of the field in a C2 R2, this entry gave Citroen the chance to discover the conditions of roads which would be encountered by the top drivers on their second run through the stages. n An inveterate gravel note expert Timo Kankkunen, brother of Juha, was found at the wheel of a similarly seeded Fiesta. n Petter Solberg was in heaven, "In every little way the C4 is superior to the Xsara, and the total difference between the cars is fantastic." He was getting happier by the minute: "On the first morning we were half a second slower per kilometre than Sordo and Loeb, by the afternoon we were a quarter second." Then by the final stage of the second day he had scored fastest stage time overall. n On the unexpectedly damp stages on the Friday morning, several drivers had brake problems. Ogier was one of many such drivers: "Because it was unexpectedly slippery I was touching the brakes all the time to balance the car and this caused them to overheat. This gave them no time to cool down " Skoda S2000 driver Brynildsen, however, found the brakes were getting soft through being used too much by the left foot. "It is hard to get out of the habit of left foot braking". SNIPPETS FROM CATALUNYA Junior WR Weijs win champ ele crashes The FIA's Junior title had already been won by Martin Prokop but he was obliged to enter this final round of the series in order to qualify for the title, but things did not go his way. Unexpectedly slippery conditions on the opening day meant that he suffered brake problems, and it was only after midday service on Day 1 that he managed to speed up and take the lead. Prokop held the lead until he went off the road on Day 2 and retired. All the time a fellow C2 S1600 driver was haunting him. This was the Dutch KNAF team driver Hans Weijs Junior. Weijs may have been a fellow Citroen driver but he was a rival in the FIA's Federation Cup, in which a good placing by either Weijs or his Renault-driving colleague Kevin Abbring, 46