Odd years have a habit of being kind to Citroen in Corsica.

The DS 19 triumphed on the Mediterranean island in 1961 and 1963, while more recently Philippe Bugalski/Jean-Paul Chiaroni and Jesus Puras/Marc Marti secured an emphatic one-two for the Xsara Kit Car in 1999.

Two years later, it was the Spanish crew's turn to pop the champagne after their win with the Xsara WRC.

In its bid to continue this sequence, Citroen will line up for the 47th running of France's round of the World Championship with four latest-spec Xsara WRCs for Colin McRae/Derek Ringer, Sebastien Loeb/Daniel Elena, Carlos Sainz/Marc Marti and Bugalski/Chiaroni.

As was the case in Germany and Italy, Bugalski's car, which is identical in every way to those of his team-mates, will be run during the event by the Spanish outfit Piedrafita Sport. With the exception of a few tiny details, the specification of the Xsaras for Corsica will be the same as that of the cars that did so well in Italy.

Citroen chose to prepare for the current series of three asphalt rallies by giving each of its four drivers the opportunity to do two days of testing, one in Italy, the other in Catalonia. The build up to Corsica was part of this programme.

Corsica's special lie of the land makes it one of the places that lends itself the most readily to the current desiderata of WRC rallying. From its Ajaccio-Campo dell'Oro epicentre, it is possible to cover three distinctive legs - one to the north, one to the east and one to the south - and to organise a selection of challenging stages without the need for lengthy road sections. Indeed, this year's Tour features a stage-to-total distance ratio of close to 41 per cent, which must be the highest of the entire championship.

To spice up this year's event, its organisers have taken steps not only to include a number of tests that haven't been used for some years - such as 'Carg?se-Paomia', but also by running existing stages in the opposite direction ['Vico-Pont du Liamone'] and by introducing new portions ['Pont de la Masina-Col St Georges', the start and finish of 'Col de Carazzi-Bastelica']. "In total," believes Bugalski's Corsican born and bred co-driver Chiaroni, "we will have about 70 new kilometres to recce, that is to say about 35 per cent of the route."

Finally, Chiaroni believes that weather conditions could be a key factor in the way the event unfolds. Indeed, in the middle of October, the Corsican roads can get wet very quickly... and then dry out amazingly quickly. "That means you've got twice as many opportunities to get it wrong," adds Bug's co-driver!

Without a doubt, the contest promises to be close, difficult and undecided, but Citroen is ready for the challenge...



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