Sebastien Ogier will compete on the 35th Rallye du Condroz this week in a Citroen C2-R2 MAX.
The recently crowned Junior World Rally champion has been drafted in to sub for the injured Simon Jean-Joseph, who is still recovering following a boating accident. As the rules only allow one member of the crew to be changed, Ogier will again team up with Jack Boyere, as he did on the Ulster Rally back in August.
"Again, my first thought is with Simon," Ogier said. "I'm very sorry that he has to miss out. Once more I'm going to experience a new rally, different roads, and some fresh adversaries – and I have to say I love that sort of thing!
"As has often been the case this year, I'm taking another step into the unknown. Jack Boyere's experience will be very useful to me again though, just as it was in Ireland for the Ulster."
The Rallye du Condroz is a legendary event in Belgium and as it the final round in the Belgian Rally Championship it is sure to attract some of the best local drivers. The route is 811.29 kilometres long in total, with 275.02 competitive kilometres split over 17 asphalt special stages.
"I remember that the Condroz is an extremely difficult rally," Boyere continued. "It's a little bit similar to the Rallye du Touquet. The roads are very quick and as there aren't many junctions, the average speeds are impressively high.
"As soon as the thin layer of earth that covers the road gets wet – as can happen often in November in the Ardennes - then the grip becomes marginal. In some places, there's no grip at all. But there's a fantastic atmosphere in Huy, with a large and passionate crowd of spectators."
Buoyed with confidence following their first outing together in Ireland, Ogier and Boyere will start the Condroz in their Citroen C2-R2 MAX run by PH-Sport with no particular fears. But they also know that they will face a strong rival in the form of 2003 European Rally champion Bruno Thiry, a four-time winner of the event in 1997, 2000, 2001 and 2002. The Belgian driver will also be at the wheel of a C2-R2 MAX, prepared and run by the MY Racing team.
"Bruno is sure to be a very strong adversary," Ogier summed-up. "The Condroz will be my third event in the C2-R2 MAX and I have also carried out some tests with it. I'm beginning to get to know it now.
"Bruno has been driving the MAX since the Luxembourg Rally however, and he knows this territory very well. Given his track record, it would be hard to find a better benchmark. We're going to try to get close to his times.
"The capabilities and potential of the C2-R2 MAX in the tricky conditions that we are expecting will be vital to our hopes of doing well. But the most important thing for me will be to build up more valuable experience and demonstrate the competitiveness of our C2."