2008 Junior World Rally champion Sebastien Ogier will go to Ireland this week on a real high fresh from taking a debut win on the legendary Rallye Monte Carlo just a few days earlier.
Ogier, who competed at the Principality in the Intercontinental Rally Challenge thanks to the BFGoodrich Drivers' Team initiative, driving a Kronos-run Peugeot 207 S2000, will switch back to what will be his regular steed this year, a Citroen C4 WRC.
The Frenchman got his first competitive taste of the C4 on the Wales Rally GB at the end of last season and while he rolled out on day two, he had already made his mark, sensationally winning his very first stage in a WRC car and leading early on.
Now though he begins what is currently a six-event programme in the WRC with the new Citroen Junior Team and while he says he only wants to finish, it will be interesting to see what the youngster manages.
“The 2009 season promises to be a nice one for me, thanks to a very good programme with the Citroen Junior Team,” said Ogier.
“I took part in the Ulster Rally last year with a Citroen C2-R2 MAX. It was my first experience of Irish roads, even though the profile of the World Rally Championship event there looks somewhat different.
“I think this is going to be a very complex rally, with some ice and frost expected at this time of year. The roads are narrow and bumpy, plus they get dirty very quickly.
“By starting the first day around 10th on the road, we are sure to find some particularly delicate conditions. My key objective is to finish. I don't have any real pressure in terms of results: I just need to keep making progress.”
Citroen Junior Team manager Benoit Nogier meanwhile added that the most important thing is for all four of his drivers' to gain experience, although Evgeny Novikov won't be in action until round two in Norway.
“We would like to prove that we can be competitive compared to the opposition. The average age of our four drivers – Chris Atkinson, Conrad Rautenbach, Sébastien Ogier and Evgeny Novikov – is just 22. They will all certainly want to demonstrate their outright speed, but the team's objective is for them to acquire as much World Rally Championship experience as possible and get to the finish of each event. That's our priority,” he concluded.