Rally de Portugal
The Citroën DS3 WRCs are gunning for a double in Faro
The longest day in Rally Portugal was full of twists! The Citroën Total World Rally Team crews managed to thread their way through the dust and the numerous traps of the stages in the Algarve, and they have pulled out a decisive advantage in the third round of the season. Sébastien Ogier and Julien Ingrassia lead Sébastien Loeb and Daniel Elena by 37.6s. As the final leg approaches, their rivals have fallen over four minutes behind the flying French cars!
Sébastien Loeb and Sébastien Ogier took full advantage of a trajectory that had already been swept by the first two cars on the road, and they tackled the first loop of three stages with the knife between their teeth. Ogier left the service park in fourth place, and gained a position in each stage and went into the lead at the end of Loulé 1 (SS10).
In Vascao 1 (SS9), the plans of the Citroën Total World Rally Team were thwarted by a puncture on Mikko Hirvonen’s car. The Finn set off again in front of Loeb after having stopped to change the wheel. He enveloped the seven-time world champion in a cloud of dust. Seb was obliged to lift off and lost a good thirty seconds to his team-mate. Loeb then went for it in the afternoon to try and close the gap. While their rivals ran into various problems the Citroën DS3 WRCs banged in the quickest times. Loeb snatched second place from Jari-Matti Latvala, and the two Citroën crews arrived back in the service park with a lead of over four minutes after thirteen stages.
“We’ve just had a perfect day without making any mistakes in a DS3 WRC that was running like a dream,” stated Ogier. “We’ve built up a comfortable lead but the rally isn’t over yet. We’ve still got some one hundred kilometers to cover, and we’ve seen that the race can be turned on its head in a fraction of a second. We have to stay concentrated right till the end, and above all avoid punctures. It’s never easy especially when you’re pushing hard!”
Finally, Loeb was fairly happy with his second place and he drew similar conclusions to his teammate’s: “I think I lost the race in SS9. You have to face facts; with a gap of forty seconds you can’t win in normal circumstances. We’ll just have to manage the end of the rally to cement this evening’s result and make it a double for Citroën. We’ also have to think about the Power Stage, which can bring us a few precious points.”
Olivier Quesnel, the Citroën Racing Team Principal summed things up : “The way the second day’s unfolded helps me to underline the excellent work of the whole team. Our cars and our crews have shown perfect reliability since the start. This means that we can tackle the final leg of the rally in a serene state of mind. Now, we just have to make sure that all these efforts will be rewarded by bagging the maximum haul of points in the world championship chase.”
The final day will consist of four stages for a total of 104,86 timed kilometers. The crews will leave the parc fermé at 7h10. Watch out for the time change!