Junior World Rally Championship points' leader Sebastien Ogier will replace Simon Jean-Joseph on the Ulster International Rally next weekend, Citroen Sport announced today.

Ogier will take in the event, which counts as a round of the British Rally Championship and the Irish Tarmac Rally Championship, as Jean-Joseph recently sustained facial injuries in a boating accident.

"Jean-Joseph underwent an operation locally followed by a second operation in France," read a statement from Citroen. "He is now recovering but will not be able to drive a rally car for a few weeks, which means that he is unable to start the Ulster Rally, the sixth round of his planned European programme in the Citroen C2-R2 MAX."

Under the rules just one element of a competing crew can be changed once the entry has gone in and as such Ogier has been called up to drive the C2-R2 MAX alongside Jean-Joseph's navigator Jack Boyere.

"First of all, I feel extremely sorry for Simon and I hope he gets better soon," said Ogier, who is currently on course to take the JWRC win on the Rallye Deutschland. "I've never driven on the Ulster Rally and I don't know a great deal about it. But that really doesn't matter.

"I'm delighted to have this unexpected opportunity. All I've heard is that this is quite specialised terrain, with fast and bumpy roads.

"As well as having to learn this tricky event though, Jack and I will also have to learn how to work together. But Jack is an amazing professional, who has worked with many different drivers, so I'm sure it will be absolutely fine.

"I don't feel any particular pressure heading for Ulster, and I'm happy to take on the objective that Simon and the team fixed for themselves before the start of this year - to demonstrate the qualities of the C2-R2 MAX.

"I know that it is fantastic in 'normal' conditions and also very good when the going gets rough. As there is a strong chance of rain, I'm hoping that this could allow us to play our trump card. The PH Sport team also knows Ireland well, and their experience will be crucial."

Jack Boyere meanwhile, who already has two participations in Ulster behind him, has warned that the event can be very tough.

"I've not been there for several years, but I remember the fast and narrow stages, with high banks on either side of the road," he stated. "Sometimes there is also a strip of grass or gravel that runs down the middle of the road. The speeds you reach between the many sets of crossroads are quite impressive and the bumpy sections are one of the more difficult aspects of this event. Obviously it's not exactly the ideal place for our first rally together, but that's the situation we have!"

Despite the fact this will be very much a step into the unknown for Ogier and Boyere, Jean-Francois Lienere, who is in charge of Citroen Sport's customer competition department, still wants them to aim for the win in their class.

"The C2-R2 will be driven by an unaccustomed crew on its second asphalt outing of the year. They will start the rally in a customer-specification C2-R2 MAX, which they will have to adapt to the local conditions with the help of the team. Sebastien Ogier knows the car well through having tested it, and together with Jack Boyere he will be aiming to demonstrate the Citroen's potential against some very strong opposition. As well as targeting a win in the Group A two-wheel drive class, the crew will be looking for a strong overall placing. They will be helped by their BFGoodrich tyres, which are strong in all conditions," he concluded.


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