Ten days after its resounding triumph in Monaco, Team Citroen Total turns its attention to Sweden for the second step of its first full World Rally Championship campaign. Three Xsara WRCs have been entered for the Scandinavian round, for Colin McRae/Derek Ringer, Sébastien Loeb/Daniel Elena and Carlos Sainz/Marc Marti.
On cloud nine after its success on the recent Monte Carlo Rally, the Versailles-based team has lost no time getting its feet back firmly on the ground. Snowy ground that is... "We justifiably savoured our one-two-three finish in Monte Carlo and that heart-warming result was a big confidence booster, but it is vital we all keep a cool head…" stressed Guy Fréquelin once back at the factory.
Given the Swedish Rally's distinctive features - ultra-fast stages, snowy, wintry conditions and very low temperatures – the Xsara WRC has been adapted to cope with the characteristics of this unique event. "As far as the chassis is concerned," explains teams chassis engineer Jean-Claude Vaucard, "it has got to run with the very narrow wheels we use in Sweden. Not only are they a mere 5" wide but their diameter is also just 16" which means we have to use smaller brakes. Under the snow, the stages run on gravel tracks, so we fit gravel-type suspension rather than an asphalt specification. The times we recorded in the 2002 Swedish Rally show that the Xsara has a certain potential. Since then, the two test sessions we carried out late December and early January have enabled us to evaluate our hydraulically-linked antirollbar system and to make improvements in certain other areas, notably concerning the car's balance in the icy ruts…"
"We have taken care to prevent snow getting into the front part of the engine compartment," adds Claude Guillois, the team's engines-systems engineer. "The engine's water injection system will stay on the car since that's the way it's homologated, but it will be deactivated if temperatures fall below 0°C. Also, although the cars are parked overnight in underground car parks, we have taken the precaution of testing a mapping that ensures problem-free starting at temperatures as low as -25°C…"
"As usual, we have taken as much care as possible in the preparation of the cars," concludes Guy Fréquelin. "Even so, this will only be our second visit to Sweden and we are doubtlessly going to discover much that is new to us. With this in mind, I will be pleased if we succeed in getting two cars inside the top-five, one of them on the podium."Published 3 February 2003