Citroen go all-out for Swedish success

Citro?n are aiming big in this year's Rally Sweden, with four entries that will see Mikko Hirvonen, Sebastien Loeb, Dani Sordo and Khalid Al Qassimi all flying the French team's colours.
Mikko Hirvonen (FIN) Jarmo Lehtinen (FIN), Citroën DS3 WRC, Citroën Total Abu Dhabi World Rally Team
Mikko Hirvonen (FIN) Jarmo Lehtinen (FIN), Citroën DS3 WRC, Citroën Total…

Never a team to do things by halves, Citro?n are going all out for success in next week's Rally Sweden event with four top-quality entries entered for the uniquely gruelling and brutal winter event.

Reigning WRC champions S?bastien Loeb and Daniel Elena will take charge of the #1 Citro?n DS3 WRC next weekend, while two-time winner of the event Mikko Hirvonen together with co-driver Jarmo Lehtinen will be in the #2 Citro?n DS3 WRC entry. Khalid Al Qassimi and Scott Martin make their competitive debut in the #10 car, while Citro?n has added a fourth car for next weekend's event that will be in the hands of Dani Sordo and co-driver Carlos del Barrio.

Hirvonen is hoping that a year on from his arrival at Citro?n he'll be back in winning form in conditions that suit the Finnish driver.

"Last year, it was only my second rally in the DS3 WRC and I was missing that little something you need to grab the win," he admitted. "A year later, I feel ready to secure my first win in 2013.

"Obviously, we'll have to deal with the conditions, which can vary depending on how cold it gets and any snowfall," he added. "That can affect the wear of the tyres. The new Michelin X-Ice North tyres seem more hard-wearing on the frozen gravel, but we'll only really be able to tell in the race."

Of course, Loeb and Elena are no slouches on any surface, and the nine-time world champion has won here before albeit back in 2004. Even so, that makes them the only 'non-Nordic' crew to have won the notoriously brutally cold and icy event.

"I remember how surprised [Citro?n team principal] Yves Matton was when I suggested including this rally in my programme," admitted Loeb, who is only running a partial itinerary of races in 2013. "It is undoubtedly not one of the rallies where I have enjoyed the most success in recent years, but that's exactly why I'm keen to compete here.

"To be honest, our win here in 2004 wasn't a particularly great race," he admitted with a chuckle. "We won mainly because the other guys ran into problems! Since then I have been trying to understand and master these stages, so I am here one final time to try and go out in style."

Sweden's cold conditions couldn't be further from the hot desert of Abu Dhabi, but Khalid Al Qassimi was willing to give it his best shot.

"No, it's not really a surface that comes naturally to me, but I have improved here every year," he said. "This will be my first rally with the team and the DS3 WRC, so I don't want to set myself too high a target. It would be a great start if I could finish in the points."

Spain's Dani Sordo is hardly any more used to the ice and snow than his Citro?n stablemate, but he was still looking forward to the event.

"Although I still think I can improve further on this surface, I was on the pace in 2010 when I finished on the podium," he pointed out. "The fact that I won't be scoring points towards the Manufacturers' Championship will help to take the pressure off me."

Read More