Citroen Racing had another difficult rally – this time in Sweden last week. The team’s crews were again far off the desired positions. Kris Meeke was particularly nervous and for a second consecutive rally he lost positions after crashing. Stéphane Lefebvre looked most at ease with the old DS3 WRC. Craig Breen had some pace in the new C3 WRC but was not always pleased with the performance.
The rally got underway last Thursday evening with the Karlstad super special stage.
Kris Meeke set the second fastest time on SS2 on Friday and Craig Breen finished third on SS3. At the mid-leg point, Kris was third overall whilst Craig was eighth, less than twenty seconds adrift of his team-mate.
On the second loop, Meeke had to contend with excessive wear on his tyres. He was unable to hang onto third place. Breen struggled with the handling of his C3 WRC after damaging the front aero package when he hit a snow bank. He held onto eighth place, but dropped time to the drivers ahead.
“We clearly still have work to do to make the most of our car’s potential in certain conditions. On this surface, we were fast on the first pass on the stages,” noted Citroën Racing Team Principal Yves Matton. “We still need to work out why our drivers were less comfortable on the second runs.”
On Saturday, Meeke was unable to hide his frustration after slipping to fifth place. In the afternoon, he made a mistake on Vargåsen 2: after missing a corner, the C3 went off the road and fell into a snow-filled ditch. Spectators rushed to help but it took them eight minutes to get the car back on the road.
Yves Matton: “Citroen Racing can take some satisfaction from having had perfect reliability in Sweden”
Craig profited in particular from the misfortune of other drivers to move up a few positions. As he returned to service and parc ferme in Torsby, he was fifth overall. The rally concluded with a sprint finish on Sunday, with just three stages to complete. Breen and Scott Martin looked to make sure of their result and therefore took no risks. They added a second fifth-place finish to the one secured in Monte Carlo.
Twelfth overall, Meeke and Paul Nagle scored two points as they claimed fourth place on the Power Stage. Citroen added 16 points to its tally in the Manufacturers’ World Championship.
Stéphane Lefebvre was with the DS3 WRC this time and his was an assured performance – in contrast to his teammates. Lefebvre devoted day one to learning about the roads and conditions, making a significant step forward in terms of performance on the second runs on the stages. On Saturday, he went out second on the road and spent the morning sweeping fresh snow off the racing line. However, it didn’t stop him from moving up to eighth place, a position he confirmed on Sunday.
“We can take some satisfaction from having had perfect reliability in Sweden,” stressed Matton.
“Craig and Stéphane hit the targets we had set them, so they made a substantial contribution to the positive aspect of the weekend”
“Craig managed to show good speed at those points when he felt more comfortable in the car and adopt a more measured approach at other times, when necessary. Stéphane learned about managing a race like this in a wide variety of conditions. It’s a positive result for him, considering his limited experience on snow.”
“It was a more mixed weekend for Kris. He had a few difficulties feeling entirely at ease in the car on the variety of road surfaces faced. In these conditions, it’s not easy to develop your confidence. There’s a good chance the situation will be different in Mexico. There the road surface is more consistent throughout the rally.”
— Citroën Racing (@CitroenRacing) 12 February 2017