Lessons Learned For The Future
Despite once again showing impressive pace, the C3 WRC, like many of its rivals, suffered in last weekend’s brutal conditions at Rally Turkey. The habitual strength of Citroën Total Abu Dhabi World Rally Team was sorely tested by constant damage caused by the incredibly rough stages.
THE STORY OF THE RALLY
Rally Turkey was held at the new Marmaris hub for the first time in the championship last weekend and it was the first time that Craig Breen had led a WRC round. The Irishman was the quickest out of the blocks on Friday, on the opening stage’s thirty-eight kilometres. Craig’s calm and measured approach ensured he then made it to the end of the morning loop in second place, just 6.3 seconds behind the leader. Mads Østberg followed closely behind in third, just 8.2 seconds off the pace after an excellent start. The Norwegian had in fact set the second fastest time on SS3, just 2.1 seconds behind the championship leader over almost 22 kilometres.
Despite taking great care to avoid the most substantial obstacles, both crews suffered from punctures during the afternoon loop. Whilst Craig Breen fell back to eighth position after two punctures, Mads Østberg, who had been running fifth at the time, retired for the day when the harsh conditions led to a broken suspension arm. Khalid Al Qassimi also had to call it a day following a turbo failure.
However, the roads proved to be even tougher on Saturday’s leg for the latest generation WRCs, with the cars enduring the greatest test they have faced since their introduction last year. Unfortunately, Citroën Total Abu Dhabi WRT did not escape unscathed. The roads broke up very quickly, unable to withstand the power of the WRCs, with sharp stones and other embedded rocks appearing on the surface.
Mads Østberg was forced to stop with a turbo issue whilst Craig Breen, who had climbed back up to sixth overall despite his unfavourable road position (second), had to retire from the rally after his car burst into flames.
The rally ended on a more positive note on Sunday, however, with three consecutive second fastest times for Mads Østberg and Khalid Al Qassimi, securing a few manufacturers’ championship points.
QUESTIONS FOR PIERRE BUDAR, CITROËN RACING TEAM PRINCIPAL
How would you assess this first outing in Turkey for the C3 WRC?
“It is certainly positive that the C3 WRC was fast yet again, despite the long list of unknowns that we faced throughout the weekend’s stages. From the outset, both Mads and Craig were fighting for a podium place, with Craig even managing to win the longest and hardest stage of the rally. We were also right on the pace on Sunday, so clearly the car has the performance level.
Despite this, we discovered during the weekend that the level of endurance demanded by Rally Turkey was a lot greater than usual. The stresses placed on the cars were extreme and the roads, which were rough to start with, broke up very quickly, something that our C3 WRC had not previously encountered.
In these tough conditions, we also had to contend with some technical issues, which we had not experienced before. The championship calendar has not seen a rally like this one, which is so hard on the cars, for many years.
We did, however, gather a lot of information throughout the weekend. Using what we have learnt about the road surface here, we can build on the brand's previous experience at events such as the Acropolis Rally or Safari Rally in Kenya, and we already know how we can come back better prepared next time.”
How would you assess the performance of the team?
“I would like to commend the mechanics for the excellent work they did during each service, managing to fully repair and rebuild the cars in the very limited time available. They did not just work on the C3 WRC to which they had been assigned but also helped on the next car, as soon as they had finished. Eventually, an armband became available, limiting the number of people working on a car in service. I think that really shows just how united and together this group is.”
A new rally means new pace notes must be taken in just two runs during the recce, at a much reduced pace. With the longest, most formidable and daunting stage of the rally (Çetibeli, over 38 kilometres) scheduled as the opener on Friday morning, it would become apparent very quickly who had worked well in the recce.
It was Craig Breen that produced a stunning drive to win the stage, confirming from the beginning the strong pace of the C3 WRC on this surface and the Irishman's ability to adapt to new stages.
The Irishman’s stage win also meant he led a WRC round for the first time in his short career. It was an almighty performance given the conditions, with constant changes in pace and road profiles, on perhaps the roughest surfaces seen in the WRC for a long time. The crews were not only forced to avoid the sharpest stones, but also contend with poor visibility caused by hanging dust on the stage.