O.K. Auto-Ralli (July 11-12, 2008)
The 2008 WRC is currently enjoying a six-week summer break, but Dani Sordo/Marc Marti are to interrupt their holidays to contest July's O.K. Auto-Rally, round five of this year's Finnish Championship. The Spanish pair will drive a Citroen C4 WRC and will seek to profit from their visit to the land of saunas and small red houses alongside pretty lakes to enhance their grasp of the country's unique stages.
The World Rally Championship itself resumes on July 29 with the first day of recce for Rally Finland, the ninth fixture of this year's 15-round calendar. "It's currently very close in both the Manufacturers or Drivers points tables and there's still absolutely everything to play for," states Olivier Quesnel. "To maximise our chances, we have decided to enable Dani Sordo to gain more experience of the Finnish stages."
The reputation of the latter is in no way exaggerated. The country's wide gravel roads tend to be extremely fast and their specific challenges include blind crests, concealed corners and the infamous yumps over which the cars go airborne. Experience of the event is crucial and it takes several visits to gain the sort of detailed understanding of the stages enjoyed by the local experts who know them intimately! It's no coincidence that the home-grown stars' domination has traditionally been so difficult to overturn.
Dani Sordo and Marc Marti have shown real promise on each of their three visits to Rally Finland to date, first of all with the C2 Super 1600 in 2005, then with the Xsara WRC in 2006 and, finally, last year with the C4 WRC. The eight stages of the O.K. Auto Rally stand out as an ideal opportunity to boost their confidence further still prior to the 2008 event, since the roads around Kouvola and Kymenlaakso region are very similar to those of the WRC encounter.
"I am aware of how fortunate I am," says Dani Sordo. "I am very happy that Citroen has agreed to give me a chance to contest this event. The 92km of stages are very similar to those we will contest during Rally Finland, so it will be excellent practice. We have just completed our Rally Finland tests, and this outing will enable us to validate our final set-up in a competitive context. We will also see how our soft compound Pirelli tyres perform, because we have yet to use them in anger. The main aim of this event is to enhance our experience of this challenging terrain and help our build-up to the WRC event itself at the beginning of August."