Citroen Racing boss Olivier Quesnel has said that seven-time champion Sebastien Loeb and up-and-coming youngster Sebastien Ogier will start the 2011 World Rally Championship on a level playing field – with no number one in place.
Ogier burst onto the scene with two victories last season to secure a place in the factory team for 2011 at the expense of Dani Sordo and it hotly tipped to challenge his fellow Frenchman for honours this season.
While allowing the pair to fight for honours could see them taking points off each other as the season wears on, Quesnel insisted there would be no number one when the season kicks off in Sweden with both drivers aware of the job that is expected of them.
“Both drivers are starting off with a blank score sheet,” he said following the launch of Citroen's 2011 campaign. “As was always the case in the past, Citroen is giving them absolutely identical cars. If one sets a better time than the other it's simply because he's quicker. I'm not the kind of guy who puts himself under pressure: I don't have to cope with any rivalry at the moment.
“What I can tell you is that we all belong to the same family. While the drivers' title is a bit more prestigious and receives more media coverage, the manufacturers' crown has considerable importance for the make. Our two drivers are intelligent guys and they're fully aware of what's at stake for Citroen.”
The season opener in Sweden will see the new DS3 WRC going up against Ford's new Fiesta RS WRS for the first time, and Quesnel said he was interested to see how the two cars would perform – even though he conceded that Sweden won't necessarily be representative of the remainder of the season.
“I wouldn't say that we feel particularly relaxed!” he said. “It's true that I'm looking forward to being in Sweden to find answers to all the questions that we're asking ourselves at the moment. Have we done a good job? Have we missed out on something? We'll only know a part of the answers at the end of the opening stages, but it should be remembered that Sweden is not really representative of the world championship as a whole.
“We also have to keep a cool head. Citroen Racing is a proven winning machine, and there's no reason why it should go on the blink from one day to the next. I have every confidence in the team's work, but we're very impatient to take the start of the Swedish Rally!”