The Citroen DS3 R3 makes its mark
It was another remarkable performance over the weekend from the Citroen DS3 R3, which took its fourth class win on the Rallye International du Valais: the penultimate round of the European Rally Championship. Not content with claiming a win in the two-wheel drive category, the Reseau Citroen France car also finished on the third step of the overall podium, having set two fastest stage times on Saturday.
After the asphalt of Ireland, followed by both gravel and asphalt events in France, the DS3 R3 confirmed its ability to adapt itself to different types of terrain by putting in a breathtaking performance on the mountain roads of Switzerland. This fourth class victory, together with an overall podium on the European event, represents a huge step forwards in the DS3's progress, after it was pitted against much more powerful cars on a notoriously tricky rally run in challenging winter conditions.
From the very first stage on Thursday the DS3 was on a charge, taking the lead of the two-wheel drive category by setting three fastest times on the icy Anzère and Crans Montana stages. Friday looked set to be another thrilling day, which then turned into a truly historic one. In total there were 130 kilometres of special stages on the menu, with the epic Les Cols test as a highlight.
As Thierry Neuville pointed out: "The roads were really tricky throughout day two. We encountered snow, a lot of damp, and also some mud." It was a situation that suited the DS3 R3 perfectly, which soon set its first overall fastest stage time in the hands of the talented young Belgian. On the following stage, the car was slowed down by a puncture, dropping two minutes to slide down to 11th overall. But Citroen's new baby fought back to pull off another remarkable feat on the closing stage of the day. One more fastest stage time meant that Neuville stormed back up the leaderboard, making up six places. The Citroen ended the day second in Group R, just 38 seconds off its key rival and in the top five overall.
The final day promised another close battle to end the rally on a high. The Citroen DS3 did not hold back and made up the 38-second deficit in the 13-kilometre Nendaz test alone, reclaiming the lead of the two-wheel drive category.
Through setting some astonishing stage times, the DS3 worked its way up to third overall; a position it maintained all the way to the end. At the finish ramp in Martigny, another class win was sealed.
Frederic Bertrand, in charge of Citroen Racing's customer competition department, said: "We take our hats off to the Citroen DS3 R3 and the crew of Thierry Neuville/Nicolas Klinger, who have turned in a remarkable performance this weekend. We're practically at the end of our work to finalise the car's development, and we can honestly say that it excelled in the demanding conditions of Switzerland with extremely challenging weather. We're especially proud of this fourth success, and the orders keep coming in. The DS3 is clearly both an efficient and reliable rally car, which the results have confirmed once more."
Thierry Neuville added : "We are delighted with this fantastic result and at the same time sad to get out of the DS3 R3. We had a lot of fun driving it, and the car showed itself to be extremely competitive and reliable throughout the rally. We knew that we faced a tough task this weekend, thanks to the snowy and icy nature of the roads, but the work that we did during the recce was very useful. It's also clear that the Citroen DS3 R3 can easily adapt itself to all different types of terrain and that it has real potential that allowed us among other things to set two fastest stage times and quickly climb back up the leaderboard following our puncture."
The Citroen DS3 R3 now heads south to end its 2010 season on the Rallye du Var, the final round of the French Rally Championship. This next appearance is set to be an exciting one, as the brilliant Sebastien Ogier takes the wheel, determined to end the year on a high note.