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Xavier Mestelan-Pinon - Citroen: Q&A
30 March 2010
Xavier, let's recap on Rally Mexico in which Citroen scored its first triple on gravel. How do you explain this domination? There's a lot of talk about adapting the engine to the altitude.
Above all, I think we had a great rally. The C4s ran well without having any reliability problems and our drivers were particularly happy with their cars' handling. Together with the suspension set-up, adapting the engine mapping and the gear ratios to the altitude of the Mexican stages was certainly one of the keys to our success. But there's no miracle solution: the engines we used in Mexico had nothing special from a mechanical point of view. The regulations didn't allow it as we have to use them in Turkey and Portugal.
So let's talk about the Rally Jordan. What are the specific challenges of this event?
It's a rally that we put in the 'good' gravel category! The surface is fairly smooth and the gravel is very hard. Once the stages have been swept they provide a lot of grip and the tyres will be given a severe test. As a number of corners are blind, and the stages are lined with big stones – which are to be avoided – we'll define setups that favour very precise driving. Also, it's going to be very hot in the region, and that's a situation that both men and machines are not really crazy about!
There a lot of talk about sweeping in the WRC. What does it really mean? Why choose to lose time at the end of a stage?
All the cars follow the same lines. The fine layer of dust that covers the road is swept away as the cars run through the stages. This phenomenon causes wheelspin on the exit from corners, a loss of grip when braking. On a very twisty route with a hard surface, this can lead to a loss of three-tenths of a second per kilometres between the first and the third on the road. Of course, the drivers have to adapt to these conditions. Sébastien Loeb, who's done a lot of sweeping this season, adopts a very clean driving style and avoids sliding. The strategies we have to adopt at the end of the first or second day can be explained very easily. We have to estimate the time that we're likely to lose by being first out the next day compared to our lead. Sometimes, it's a good idea to lose around ten seconds if we think we can gain twenty the next day!
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