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October 16th, 2009
Citroen team principal Olivier Quesnel says Sebastien Loeb’s five world titles will be enough to see him through next week’s final-round fight with Ford’s Mikko Hirvonen on the Rally GB.
The pair arrive in Cardiff with Hirvonen leading Loeb by just a single point – the first time Loeb has not come to the final round of the WRC leading since 2002. Despite that, Quesnel is confident in the Frenchman’s experience and the fact that Loeb is running behind Hirvonen on the road on Friday’s opening day in mid-Wales.
“In the past two years, Mikko has shown that he is perfectly capable of holding his own,” said Quesnel. “He is not fazed by pressure; he is another ‘Iceman’.
“His handicap, though, is the fact that he has never been World Rally champion. With five consecutive titles and 53 WRC wins to his name, Sebastien is accustomed to this sort of situation. He fears no one!
“In Wales, he will also have the advantage of running just behind Mikko in the order to begin with, and I believe it is effectively preferable to be the hunter rather than the hunted in this sort of situation.
“Mikko will have to choose between hitting the ground running or taking time to bed himself in. Seb will be able to adapt as a function of that choice.”
Quesnel added that he would not be surprised to see other drivers – including Citroen number two Dani Sordo – edging ahead of the title-fighting two to win the rally.
“I even believe that the fight for outright victory won’t necessarily feature Seb and Mikko,” he said. “Dani won’t be under any pressure, but Sebastien Ogier, Petter Solberg and Jari-Matti Latvala would all dearly love to win, too.
“Wales isn’t Dani’s favourite terrain but he is capable of putting in a top performance. Remember last year, when he finished 18.5 seconds clear of his closest chaser on the 30km Resolfen stage.
“If he does succeed in winning, I am sure it will be a watershed moment that will enable him to target victory after that on any type of terrain.”