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GP Week : Issue 170
RALLY >>> NEWS Yves Matton was reflecting before the start of Rallye de France 2012 on the impending departure of Sebastien Loeb from his world rally driving career: “I cannot say I am sad because he will stay with us for a long time and we will still do things with him in the future. He will be entering various rallies with us in the future and we are ready to keep him inside the house. “2013 will be a very special year, however, because it really is likely to be the last time he will enter his favourite events. He has stated that the 2013 Monte Carlo will be his last Monte Carlo, but the season will be something strange.” How is Citroen planning the 2013 championship challenge? “ “Mikko (Hirvonen) may be carrying the number one on the car and be named with the FIA as our permanent driver, but we will not have a number one or number two status like this year. We will try to have a team with two drivers on the same level. That is the idea and is the only way to win both championships. “I think you know the names of the persons who are on the market at the moment. We are speaking with people who have a lot of experience of the world championship and of the world rally car." How will Sebastien fit into the team,? Will he be one of the official team drivers on the rallies, or will Mikko’s team-mate be a driver who also enters every event? "We have not made a plan about this for the moment. We will prepare three cars for every rally next year and we will decide nearer the time, after checking what happens in the championship, whether he (Seb) will be one of the two first cars or a third car. We will know more of our plans at the end of this year, but I will not speak about it before Monte Carlo." Is Khalid (Al Qassimi) going to be driving on all the rallies? “He will not be able to do all the rallies because he will also enter the Middle East championship and some dates will clash. For the moment I think he will do something like nine of the world championship events. The debut of the Super 2000 (RRC) car will be in Switzerland at the end of this month and we plan to have some other rallies with the car as well.” PIC (Above): Matton and Citroen's 2013 lead driver Mikko Hirvonen Muller rates Citroen's WTCC chances at BRIEFLY » Nasser is back with Ford! No sooner than he had shaken the unsatisfying memory of rallying with Citroen off his shoulders, Qatari driver Nasser Al Attiyah is to start this week’s MERC regional Rally Jordan in a brand new turbocharged Fiesta S2000. Top four entries are Fiestas, with reigning MERC champion Misfer Al Marri and Yazeed Al Rajhi also in turbo cars. In a 2-litre Fiesta for Jordan and then the final round in Dubai will be the Abu Dhabi’s future Citroen driver Khalid Al Qassimi, making a return to competition after almost a year out of action. Nasser’s personal career with Citroen ended unhappily when he went off the road and two spectators were injured. » Policy decisions are expected to be announced at the Sanremo IRC Rally this weekend by Eurosport Events personnel concerning plans as to how they expect to develop the European Rally Championship. FIA personnel are keen to downplay the impression that the vibrant young IRC series is being merged with the traditional ERC series. » Immediately after the FIA confirmed the dates for the 2013 WRC season, Portugal and Australia both quickly announced their plans and cleared up oustanding uncertainties. Portugal’s 2013 event will again be run in the south of the country despite rumours of a return to the north, while Australia will run their event again at Coffs Harbour in upstate New South Wales, despite suggestions of a move to Canberra. » Glimpses of a happier promotional future for the WRC were seen at the Rallye de France Alsace, when the European pay-channel Canal+ covered every stage of the event live, with helicopter and in car footage. The event was energetically promoted throughout the Alsace region. The Rally Italia Sardegna, next round of the WRC, has been assured three hours of live coverage by the Italian RAI network. World Touring Car Champion Yvan Muller has given his thoughts on the news that Citroen were considering entering the World Touring Car Championship with Sebastien Loeb. We asked if he thought there was a serious chance that Citroen could be successful or whether the championship had a lot of challenges that they had not really understand. “Touring Car is not the same as rallying where Citroen are the best team or one of the best teams right now. Of course if they come to Touring Cars it will be tough but they have a lot of experience of other forms of motor racing, so they know how the car has to go. “For sure it is different but they have the technology, they have the engineers, they have everything they need to go well. There is no reason why not. It may take some time because everyone has had to take time before they have had a competitive car in Touring Car racing but I am sure Citroen will be capable to do it.” Asked if there are any special requirements needed for the Touring Car championship, Muller continued: “There is plenty, the list will be very long. The tyres, the car are very different; the only familiar thing is the engine because the technical rules of the engine is the same (as for the current 1.6 direct injection WRC) but all the rest is so different. There are many peculiarities but I will keep that information for myself or for the teams I am working for!” Will it be easy for Sebastien himself to learn the techniques of Touring Car racing? “Sebastien is a great driver, a great pilot; he is the best driver ever in a rally car that means that he is capable to analyse quickly, so I am sure in Touring Car he will learn quickly but it will all take time. I can’t tell you how long it will take him to win or be on the podium but he will be there at some point.” Citroen: Life without Seb 18 GPWEEK.com // PARTNERS: