Nancy Knapp Schilke, WRC correspondent
Today’s FIA World Rally Championship action in Rally Portugal has not yet ended but on the third stage, Sebastien Loeb went off the road, damaging the roll cage on his and Daniel Elena’s Citroen DS3. The French rally ace was only past the 6 km mark on the Santa Clara 14.29 km special stage when the incident happened. Neither Loeb nor Elena were injured while they tumbled over and over.
Prior to the night stages, Citroen elected to start first and second on the road in order to avoid the gravel dust that would be kicked up by the first runners. While the call was no doubt a good one, all it took was an error for the world champions to be out of the rally on the first leg.
We don’t know how many times the car rolled.
Loeb was second on the road when the crash occurred, and he said “We came to a crest which started with a short left-hand turn followed by a longer right-hand turn. Daniel gave me the right pace note, but I continued to turn to the left. I tried to correct, but my DS3 WRC skidded into a big ditch and we were thrown into a roll. The damage wasn‘t that too bad… except for the roll cage, which did its job and ended up bent.”
Loeb and Elena were on top of the points lead prior to this event with victories both in the Monte Carlo Rally and the recent Rally Mexico event.
“It's a shame, because the small lead we had built at the top of the World Championship standings will probably disappear," added the Frenchman.
After the Citroen team checked the roll cage, team principal Yves Matton said, “We don’t know how many times the car rolled, but enough to make sure it won’t start tomorrow.”