David C. Schilke, WRC correspondent
Mikko Hirvonen and Jarmo Lehtinen have been excluded from the Rally de Portugal following an exam of their Citroen by the Federation Internationale de l'Automobile technical delegates.
Hirvonen and his co-driver won the challenging event and had moved into the points lead but there was one last twist to the action packed weekend when two parts were found to be different from homologation specifications. It was the steward's decision to drop Hirvonen from the standings and award the team no points for the weekend. This would have been Hirvonen's first victory with the Citroen Total World Rally team.
“We had no intention whatsoever to cheat and the decision appears out of proportion," stated Yves Matton, Citroën Racing Team Principal. "Given the fact that the reported differences didn’t bring us any advantage, we’ve decided to appeal. At the moment, most of all I feel sorry for Mikko Hirvonen and Jarmo Lehtinen, who produced a superb performance on a particularly difficult rally. They really deserved their first win with us. All I can do, on behalf of the entire team, is offer my sincere apologies for this situation. I hope that Mikko and Jarmo will have the chance to top the podium again very soon. ”
The exact reasons for the judgment are explained by Citroen's Technical Director, Xavier Mestelan-Pinon, "The scrutineers identified differences in between the homologation sheet and two components: the clutch and the turbocharger. The Citroën DS3 WRCs clutch mechanisms are homologated with lightening holes. Our supplier recently provided us with a batch of parts that were not perforated and one of them was fitted to the no.2 DS3 WRC. These parts don't provide any gain in terms of performance, as they are heavier than those which are homologated. Regarding the turbocharger, which is a standard part on all World Rally Cars, the wheel turbine dimension exceed the maximum authorized. This difference comes from dilatation, as the wheel is subject to extreme temperature and rpm factors."