Rally de Portugal is inevitably something of a special event for Sébastien Ogier, Julien Ingrassia and Citroën Racing. It was here in 2010 that the six-time world champions claimed their maiden WRC win in a C4 WRC, entered at the time by the Citroën Junior Team. Having joined the Citroen team in 2008 in an accelerated training programme, they were in fact only halfway through what was just their second season in a WRC. Since their debut victory, they also prevailed at the 2011 rally with Citroën before adding another three wins (2013, 2014 and 2017) to their impressive record. All of which suggests that they will once again be a force to be reckoned with at this event, where the French team also has five wins to its name. Although finishing as solid runners-up in Chile, their fifth podium (including two wins in Monte-Carlo and Mexico) in six rounds this season, saw them retake the lead in the championship standings, it also means they will be first on the road on Friday’s leg in Portugal, sweeping clear the thin layer of loose gravel on the road surface for their rivals further down the running order. It is a task that the crew have had to deal with many times in the past, and one at which they have proven to be amazingly talented.
This rally is also special for Esapekka Lappi and Janne Ferm. Portugal is where the Finnish duo made their début in a WRC in 2017. It also proved to be a successful first outing. Last year, they did even better, finishing in a promising fifth place overall. They also claimed two stage wins, including the invariably fiercely contested Power Stage, an indicator of their level of competitiveness. This round therefore seems ideally set up for them to continue building their speed in the C3 WRC, especially as running seventh on the road means that – provided the weather stays dry – they should have lines to follow and a level of grip on which they can feel confident from the word go.
To prepare for this event and the next round, Rally Italia Sardegna, as effectively as possible, the Citroën Total World Rally Team headed to Sardinia for two productive days of testing. The two days focused on improving performance when tackling new roads in low-grip conditions, the kind of conditions encountered on the first pass on a stage during a rally.
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