Nancy Knapp Schilke, WRC correspondent
In a surprise move, Citroen will not appeal the outcome of Rally de Portugal
Rally de Portugal was not an easy event due to weather conditions and the outcome was a shock to many of those who follow the demanding sport; plus to the teams that battle for the championship. The overall winning Citroen DS3 of Mikko Hirvonen and Jarmo Lehtinen were excluded from the event following post-race inspection of their DS3 by the Federation Internationale de l'Automobile technical delegates.
During the four day event, Hirvonen kept the #2 out of any significant trouble, while his main rivals struggled in the fourth round of the FIA World Rally Championship. In an unexpected turn of events, the Finn was stripped of his victory and the points lead due to two parts: the clutch and the turbocompressors.
We win together, and we lose together!
“Obviously, I am very disappointed but I am not annoyed. These things happen. You have to accept them when they do, learn the necessary lessons and go again. Citroën has done a lot for me in the last few months so I stand united with the team at this difficult time. We win together, and we lose together! This incident just makes me even more determined. I can’t wait to start the next rally and go competing again,” said Hirvonen.
After first indicating that they would appeal, the French-based Citroen factory team announced today that they will not pursue an appeal to the FIA International Court of Appeal after their own analysis of the two items in question.
Citroen Team Principal Yves Matton commented on their decision: “We had stated our intention to appeal in order to give us time to analyse the matter in more detail. As regards the clutch, our supplier has sent us a letter of apology acknowledging the existence of a batch of parts which were different from those on the homologation documentation. This letter confirms that it was never our intention to cheat. At the same time, this situation forces us to look again at our procedures, since these parts were not picked up during our own checks.
“On the second point identified by the scrutineers, the sole supplier of turbocompressors approved by the FIA for all manufacturers, has confirmed to us the plastic expansion of the wheel turbine. Additional analysis will undoubtedly confirm that this was due to wear on the part.”
Citroen’s French ace was out of the rally in Portugal on the first day. In a rare miscue, Sebastien Loeb was off the route and rolling over. While he and his long-time co-driver Daniel Elena were not injured as the roll cage stood up its task, they were unable to continue. There has been no indication from Citroen if they checked the two parts on the #1 car in their analysis.
Matton added, “We accept this harsh penalty but are determined to learn the lessons and ensure that we will be even better in future. We still lead both World Championships, but the gaps have been reduced. We now go into the upcoming rallies more determined than ever to get back to winning ways.”
The next WRC event will be held in Argentina starting on April 27th for the three day challenge in South America.