Neste Rally Finland
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    Good Sport danielsydney's Avatar
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    Icon1 Neste Rally Finland

    Less than three weeks after the Argentine fiesta and CitroŽnís historic sixth consecutive win there, the Xsara WRCs of Sťbastien Loeb/Daniel Elena and FranÁois Duval/Sven Smeets are back in the northern hemisphere for the FIA World Rally Championshipís annual, high-flying trip to Finland, Round 10 of the 2005 series.

    No longer poetically known as the '1000 Lakes Rally', the former 'Great Race of Jyvšskylš' nonetheless continues to be the Rally of the 1000 Jumps, and also the championship's fastest round, with the winnerís average speed invariably around the 120 kph mark. This combination of high speed and crests is responsible for the amazing jumps, airborne moments and spectacular landings that have forged the reputation of this Grand Prix on gravel. Generations of Finnish drivers have kept a jealous guard over their home event and few foreigners have succeeded in breaking their stranglehold: four Swedish wins in the course of the first 39 events, Carlos Sainz and Didier Auriol in the early 90s and Estonia's Markko Mšrtin in 2003.

    <SCRIPT language=javascript><!--function getFirstHiddenChapter() { var tableTab = document.getElementsByTagName("table"); for (var i = 0; i < tableTab.length; i++) { var table = tableTab[i]; if ((table.id.indexOf("tableChapter") != -1 ) && (table.style.display == "none")) { return table; } } return null;}function getLastVisibleChapter() { var tableTab = document.getElementsByTagName("table"); var visibleTable = null; for (var i = 0; i < tableTab.length; i++) { var table = tableTab[i]; if ((table.id.indexOf("tableChapter") != -1 ) && (table.style.display != "none")) { visibleTable = table } } return visibleTable;}function hideSpan() { var table = getLastVisibleChapter(); if (table != null) table.style.display = "none";}function showSpan() { var table = getFirstHiddenChapter(); if (table != null) table.style.display = "inline";}--></SCRIPT>Ever since the Xsara WRCís maiden flight here in 2002, the Versailles-Satory-based team has patiently fine-tuned its understanding of this unique terrain to make its car increasingly competitive, a claim borne out by the progress of its stage times and results in recent years. To prepare for this year's rally, CitroŽn Sport's test team made full use of the four days of on-site testing permitted by the regulations. "Because of the high speeds, the steering has to be as precise as possible," explains the Technical Manager Xavier Mestelan-Pinon. "At the same time, the jumps mean the suspension must be capable of soaking up the constraints associated with every landing. Itís all about finding a set-up that combines these two requirements as effectively as possible, without neglecting the carís 'in-flight' performance...Ē

    Neste Rally Finlandís countless jumps make this event something of a monument. However, the practically unassailable nature of this stronghold only serves to add value to a victory here and the will to win this round was already implanted in the minds of the 'Reds' at the beginning of the year, before being fanned by the teamís success over the fast gravel of April's Rally New Zealand; Finland without the jumps! The five wins which have followed since that achievement have merely served to reinforce the squadís confidence and hopes. Aware that factors such as running first on the road on Day 1 (more than 90 km of 'road sweeping' without no rivals' lines to guide him), the weather and the locals' inborn sisu (fighting spirit) are likely to complicate their task, CitroŽn Sport, Sťbastien Loeb and Daniel Elena can but aim for top spot given their recent run of success. And that would be an ideal way to celebrate Seb and Daniel's 50th start with the Xsara WRCÖ

    As a former successful driver himself, Guy Frťquelin obviously shares the same will to win as his troops, although the CitroŽn Sport Director is conscious that the prime objective is to defend the team's Drivers' and Manufacturers' crowns: "However legendary an event it is, Rally Finland is just one of the sixteen 'stages' that make up the long rally that is the championship. We need to bear that in mind all the timeÖ Ľ

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