Continuing their season of new experiences, Thierry Neuville/Nicolas Gilsoul (Citroën Junior World Rally Team) and Nasser Al-Attiyah/Giovanni Bernacchini (Qatar World Rally Team) will be competing at the Rallye de France-Alsace in their Citroën DS3 WRCs.
Faced with an extremely talented field and an itinerary renowned for being difficult, the two crews will be aiming to secure a top 10 finish.
Since it first appeared on the WRC calendar in 2010, the Rallye de France-Alsace has gone on to become one of the championship’s unmissable events. Based in Strasbourg, the French round of the WRC attracts several hundred thousand fans, most of whom are there to support the local hero, Sébastien Loeb! In a region with longstanding ties with the PSA group – which produces DS5s at its Sochaux plant – Citroën is also extremely popular with the local crowds.
In addition to the stages that have now achieved legendary status such as Pays d’Ormont, Vallée de Munster or Vignoble de Cleebourg, the route of the 2012 Rallye de France also features a few new tests, such as the Soultzeren/Pays Welche or Pays de la Haute Bruche stages. The roads in Alsace and the Vosges are very quick and often slippery, providing the crews with genuinely challenging conditions.
Competing in the no.8 DS3 WRC, Thierry Neuville has already enjoyed some success at this event. In 2010, the Belgian claimed a podium finish in the JWRC in his C2 Super 1600. After his flawless performance in Wales, the Citroën Junior World Rally Team driver hopes to match his result in the Wales Rally GB here in France. “You have to look at this season as a whole, with a series of steps to be taken to make progress,” he explained. “In Wales, the team told me not to worry about times and to try and complete the rally without making the slightest mistake. I know that I wasn’t always on the pace of the leaders, but I still set some good times on the stages where I felt the most at ease. In France, my aim will be to do the same thing… but do a little better. I’d be pleased if I could get close to the level of performance I enjoyed at the Rallye Deutschland, without overstepping the limits.”
Although Nasser Al-Attiyah has also competed once before in Alsace – last year – the Qatari doesn’t have such fond memories of the event. “I lost a lot of time on SS1, after going off into a ditch. We ended up retiring soon afterwards due to a mechanical problem, so I can’t say I know this rally particularly well,” explained Nasser. “I expect the rally to be complicated, much the same as the Rallye Deutschland. It’s very difficult for me to find the right pace on the first few stages. With the advice of the team, I know that gradually I can make progress. I’ll have the same aim as ever in France: I want to gradually gather momentum whilst covering as many miles as possible.”
Currently eighth and eleventh in the Drivers’ World Championship standings, Thierry and Nasser would love to improve their points tally with three rounds remaining this season. Both of their respective teams are in contention for fourth place in the Manufacturers’ standings.
Citroën Racing Technologies will be entering additional Citroën DS3 WRC for Sébastien Chardonnet/Thibaut de la Haye. After beginning the season in a DS3 R3, the FFSA French team’s crew will be aiming to showcase their talents at the highest level in world rallying.