Now for that C4 WRC, please
By finishing second in the Tour de Corse, Sébastien Loeb/Daniel Elena claimed the World Rally Championship Drivers' title in Ajaccio today. Their result, strengthened by a third-place finish for Carlos Sainz/Marc Marti, allowed Citroën to keep their grip on the Manufacturers' title, which they already claimed last year. A double for the Chevrons, therefore, with two rounds of the Championship still to go.
With more pleasant weather returning in Corsica, there was only some slight dampness after the night rain adding to the difficulties posed by the two special stages, ‘Pénitencier Coti Chiavari/Pietra Rossa' and ‘Pont de Calzola/Agosta', which were on today's schedule. The sun then came out, smiling down on the Beautiful Island when the Xsara driven by the Alsace-based driver reached the ‘end point' of the final stage. Seb was greeted there by Petter Solberg and Carlos Sainz, the two former World Champions having stopped their cars to congratulate their successor.
Seb showed some of his gymnastic ability, joyfully leaping around : “I really let go, that's for sure,” he said delightedly. “Relief, perhaps, after the undeniable pressure, even if the team did everything they could to give me the best conditions possible. And then there was the pleasure of seeing the joy I had given to all those people who were waiting for us, who were so happy for us…”
The welcome at the Citroën tent for the final service park lived up to the exploit achieved by the Citroën drivers, who both finished on the podium for the fifth time this season. “In very difficult conditions, we managed a perfect rally," Carlos Sainz explained between two sprays of champagne. “We achieved both our goals just at the right time. Titles for a French manufacturer and a French driver during the French round of the WRC, what could be better ? Now we have my home round, in Spain. I know it will not be easy, but we will enjoy ourselves, driving without any pressure, and I hope the party will be just as good.“
It would have been hard for Guy Fréquelin not to be emotional: "I just missed out on the world title in 1981. Thanks to the wonderful team I have the pleasure to lead, thanks to the Xsara, thanks to our two teams of drivers, I now have almost achieved my goal twenty years later. That is a great pleasure. This joy is even greater if you consider that the pure talent crowned here today has come out of our Promotion Formulae. We pinpointed a young driver, and we have taken him all the way through to the ultimate title. For a manufacturer which believes firmly in sporting values, there is nothing finer !"
Claude Satinet, Sporting Director of Automobiles Citroën, was there to congratulate the whole team : "Citroën Sport achieved their objectives, even before the end of the season. That is very satisfying. As well as the pure result, we must mention the way it was achieved. The team understood during 2003, during its first full Championship, that it was important not to drop any points along the way. Thanks to excellent organization and perseverance, they put in a perfect performance in 2004, of which the race in Corsica is another example."
* Results remain provisional subject to FIA confirmation