Rally d'Italia Sardegna
First podium of the season for Petter Solberg
Petter Solberg and Chris Patterson finished third on the Rally of Italy, which took place this weekend in Sardinia. Driving his Citroën DS3 WRC entered by the Petter Solberg World Rally Team and prepared by Citroën Racing Technologies, the 2003 World Rally Champion claimed his first podium of the season.
Having shown himself to be incredibly competitive since the start of the year, Petter Solberg was finally able to capitalise on his strong performances with a podium. The Norwegian showed his fighting spirit over the fearsome Sardinian stages that make up Italy’s round of the World Rally Championship. Petter constantly improved the set-up of his car to overcome the time loss that he suffered at the start of the event and claim the final podium place, ending up just 12.6 seconds behind Mikko Hirvonen, who was runner-up, and 23.8 seconds behind the winner, Sébastien Loeb.
“This podium is massively important for my team, my backers and me personally,” said Petter. “I feel that I could have won the rally but we had a few small problems that delayed us at the start. This positive result definitely means that we can approach the next events with more confidence.”
The two Citroën DS3 WRCs entered by Van Merksteijn Motorsport did not make it to the end of the rally. Peter van Merksteijn Senior and Erwin Mombaerts were forced to retire after another competitor hit the Dutchman’s car, which had gone off on SS3. The impact meant that his Citroën DS3 WRC was too badly damaged to be fixed, so there was no possibility to take advantage of the SupeRally regulations and start again the following day.
Peter van Merksteijn Junior and Eddy Chevaillier were classified 15th at the end of the opening day and steadily increased their pace throughout Saturday morning. But on SS11, the engine of their Citroën DS3 WRC showed signs of trouble and this forced the crew to retire. “I’m really disappointed,” said the younger van Merksteijn. “We had made a lot of progress throughout the second day. Unfortunately it wasn’t possible to continue, or to start again under the SupeRally rules and finish the rally. I hope to have a bit more success in Argentina in three weeks’ time.”
Benoit Nogier, in charge of Citroën Racing Technologies, concluded: “It’s great for our morale to see Petter Solberg on the podium. Despite a small technical problem at the start of the rally and a puncture, he’s managed to finish third. Peter van Merksteijn Senior fell victim to a minor driving error, while Peter van Merksteijn Junior was also out of luck. He retired because of an engine problem, just when he was beginning to set good times for a driver of his experience. We’re disappointed not to see him at the finish.”
On the next round in Argentina, Citroën Racing Technologies will field two cars for Petter Solberg and Peter van Merksteijn Junior.