Team Citroen Total boss Guy Frequelin and drivers - Carlos Sainz, Sebastien Loeb, Colin McRae and Philippe Bugalski, talk about this coming weekend's Rallye Sanremo, how they feel they will go and a lot, lot more...

Q:
Guy [Frequelin], you recently announced your driver line-up for 2004. Are you not worried that this might have a destabilising effect?

Guy Frequelin:
I said at the time that choosing between Carlos and Colin to drive alongside Sebastien in 2004 was the most difficult decision of my career as team director. Once the decision had been taken, I informed Colin in order to give him as much time as possible to look for a solution. And once Colin knew, there was no point in keeping the news quiet. As for it having a destabilising effect, I am not concerned because it won't happen. Colin is a true professional. Unfortunately, he has not yet won an event with us and more than anything else that's something he wants to change.

Q:
The Xsara has won the two asphalt events organised so far this year. The return to sealed surfaces therefore puts you in the position of favourite. People will be expecting you to perform...

GF:
One comment first of all: the Monte Carlo and Deutschland Rallies are very specific. They run on a different type of asphalt and in different conditions to the three events we face this month. Of course, being favourite, or more precisely being one of the favourites, does generate pressure. At our base in Versailles-Satory, it takes the form of an ongoing question that spurs us on: "Have our rivals progressed quicker than us?" As for the fact that we will be expected to perform, that's part and parcel of the problem the minute you get involved in a championship like the WRC. It's just up to us to deliver!

Q:
After Rally Australia, you said that a new championship of four events would begin in Sanremo...

GF:
So far, my objectives have been rather cautious. But now the events we had no previous knowledge of are behind us and now we have drawn level with the championship leaders, we haven't the right not to try and win the Manufacturers' championship. We are not being naively optimistic. I know it's going to be very tough. But we must throw all our strength in the battle in order to raise the game to the standard of everything the team has achieved so far and to capitalise on that. In Italy, we will be out to win and, above all, to score a maximum amount of points.

Q:
Carlos [Sainz], the Sanremo is one of the rallies you have done the most often during your career. It's also one of the few events you have never won. How do you explain that?

Carlos Sainz:
I don't really have an explanation. I have come really very close to victory on a number of occasions and but winning hasn't come my way for a variety of reasons. In any case, it was much more fun and much more interesting when the rally went all the way to Tuscany.

Q:
This is a demanding rally for tyres, and tyre choice is often complicated by weather conditions. Given your vast experience of the Sanremo Rally, is this an advantage for you?

CS:
The tyre question is always a real lottery. It's true, experience can come into it when you have to choose, but in fact it's mostly luck, plus the availability of accurate weather information. It's best to have a bit of experience and lots of luck.

Q:
With just four rallies to come in this year's championship, you are in with a real chance for the title. Will that influence your approach to the event?

CS:
Quite simply, I think we will attack 100 per cent to try and score as many points as possible... or even win, who knows? That said, I am sure the other drivers in the running for title will do exactly the same.

Q:
Sebastien [Loeb], you sprang to world attention on the 2001 Sanremo Rally. What recollections do you have of that rally?

Sebastien Loeb:
On the event itself, the biggest thrill was the penultimate stage, San Romolo. Until then, we had gone well and consistently. But then heavy rain began to fall. The stage was run on a carpet of fallen leaves and we made up two-thirds of the gap that separated us from Gilles Panizzi in one swoop. We started to dream about winning... That was unforgettable! The other big moment came after the finish when Guy Frequelin offered me my current contract. The following day, the other teams were also contacting me. Until then, I had hardly dared send them the odd fax... Everything changed completely overnight!"

Q:
You finished second in 2001 at your first attempt with the Xsara WRC. Does that force you to aim for victory this time round? Is it important for you to affirm your supremacy on asphalt?

SL:
Of course I will be out for victory! Testing went very well, the Xsara continues to progress and my feeling with the car is excellent. The only small hitch is that I didn't do the Sanremo Rally in 2002. There's also the same question as usual: where do our rivals stand? In Germany, they were very close. In any case, I hope to figure up with the leaders and I will do my very best to win. But I'm not that bothered about proving any sort of supremacy on asphalt. Obviously, I would rather be in front but I don't want to be tagged an asphalt specialist. One of my objectives is to win on gravel as quickly as possible.

Q:
Your exploit in Australia put you back in the chase for the title. Does that mean more pressure?

SL:
Frankly, a little, yes. But not to the extent where I'm about to change the way I approach events or the way I drive. That would be a wrong move anyway. I am not in the car to hold myself back. I am ten points behind Richard Burns and it's not by easing off that I'm going to close the gap.

Q:
Colin [McRae], September brought a fair share of news in the rallying world, some of which wasn't favourable to you. What is your frame of mind going into the final phase of the season?

Colin McRae:
It's simple: I will be out to win. So far, we have been close to that goal but haven't yet succeeded in achieving it. We know Citro?n are very strong on asphalt, so I think we can get some good results over the next rounds. My aim for the end of the year is to help Citro?n take the Manufacturers' title and, from the personal viewpoint, to win one or two events to end the season in style, perhaps as the driver who has won the most WRC rallies.

Q:
The route of the Sanremo Rally is the most compact of the championship. Do you like it?

CM:
The worse thing for drivers in fact is a rally with endless road sections. The more compact the route, the more time you spend in the stages and less time driving between them. The Sanremo is effectively very compact and that's something I appreciate. Its stages are quite difficult though, for they are fairly dangerous with the drops and cliffs on your way up and down the mountain passes. We'll see how it goes once we're there.

Q:
You've won this event twice. What's the secret?

CM:
The secret is the same as for most asphalt rallies: to drive very smoothly and to keep your lines very tight, to lose as little time as possible. This year's event includes a stage of over 50 kilometres. I'm convinced that if you do well on that one it will put you in with a real chance of victory.

Q:
Philippe [Bugalski], first of all, can we look back at your run in Germany? What is your analysis with hindsight?

Philippe Bugalski:
The first thing is that it was a pleasure to be back with the team on an event, and to be back driving a WRC car in anger. I say 'pleasure', but maybe it would be more accurate to say it was an immense joy for Jean-Paul Chiaroni and myself! The aim was to use the first day to find our marks again without worrying about our stage times. But the second day didn't give us enough time to move on to the next step of the plan which was to steadily increase our pace. We were obviously very disappointed.

Q:
How do you view the Sanremo Rally? It's an event that has never been particularly kind to you.

PB:
I've started it five times but have never reached the finish... Yet it's an event I enjoy. It's just it that doesn't seem to like me! The roads are wonderful and the stages are challenging. It gives me a great deal of pleasure and I've set some good times, both with the Xsara Kit Car and with the WRC. Last year, we were second overall with the Piedrafita Sport Citro?n when we retired. All runs, including bad ones, have to come to an end some time. So I hope my fortunes on the Sanremo will change this year.

Q:
What are your objectives for your sixth attempt?

PB:
We will be looking to take up where we left off in Germany. The target is twofold: to get back into the swing of things as quickly as possible and then to go as far as possible, to reach the finish. As I said prior to the Deutschland Rally, I have no ambition of mixing it with the front-runners from the word go, but I would like to set some decent stage times every now and again. That would be the ideal way to prepare for Corsica and Catalonia, both events I'm particularly fond of and in which I hope to play a bigger role.

 

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