Three questions for… Xavier Mestelan-Pinon

The Citroën Total World Rally Team DS3 WRCs were fitted with new shock absorbers for Finland. Would you describe them as an upgrade or a radical change?

“At our level, it was quite a radical change! Actually, we introduced several improvements to the car in Finland: rear suspension wishbones, shock absorbers, onboard software to improve engine operating strategies… As regards the shock absorbers, it was a significant change. After over a year of studies and tests, we used a model where the obvious specific feature is the oil cylinder placed close to the inner mounting. The entire team was very proud of this new part, because our suspension systems are designed and manufactured at our Versailles-Satory plant.”

How was this new part vital in determining the outcome at the last event?

“When we work on the suspension, the aim is to keep the tyre in contact with the ground as much as possible. Obviously, it’s impossible to achieve this all the time, but you must always try and strive for perfection. Since we started competing in the WRC with the Xsara, we have developed improved versions of the same shock absorber design. However, during development, we felt restricted in some areas. The design of this new part allowed us to break free of those restrictions. And yet it was only the weekend before the start that we confirmed this upgrade. The drivers, always asking for new parts and upgrades, confirmed that the change was a definite improvement. Then it really was a race against the clock to make sure that everything was ready in time for the rally, so much so that we had no spare parts. The one-two finish was the greatest reward for our hard work, but I’ll also remember the compliment paid by Jarmo Lehtinen. He said that he didn’t feel his usual apprehension on this surface, at a rally that he knows very well. For the first time in his career, he enjoyed the Ouninpohja stage! Given the speed at which they drove, I think we can say that we did a great job!”

What does Mikko Hirvonen contribute, alongside Sébastien Loeb, to the development of the DS3 WRC?

“Our two drivers are very complementary and they often provide very similar technical feedback. If Seb leaves an element to one side that he thinks we can’t really improve, Mikko might be able to work on it, using his experience and feel. Sometimes, this works so well that Seb ends up adopting and enjoying the upgrade, and vice-versa. When we ran tests in Finland, Mikko knew exactly which points we needed to work on, such as how the car handled on a given jump… Conversely, during tests for Germany, he didn’t need to make the slightest change to the set-up, since all the work had already been done by Seb. Being able to count on two such drivers is a real joy for our team.”