Petter Solberg confirms his potential
Petter Solberg and Chris Patterson, who were battling for the lead on the opening day, finished on the Rally France-Alsace podium. Unfortunately, the car was disqualified after scrutineering for nonrespect of the minimum weight. The other two DS3 WRCs prepared by Citroën Racing Technologies for Kimi Räikkönen / Kaj Lindström and Peter Van Merksteijn Jr. / Erwin Mombaerts did not finish the eleventh round of the FIA World Rally Championship (accidents).
The first day of the rally, which brought the crews from the Alsatian vineyards to the Vosges mountains, was blessed by warm, sunny weather. Petter Solberg set two fastest times in Ungersberg 2 and Pays d’Ormont 2 (SS6 and 7), and was battling for first place with Sébastien Ogier and Dani Sordo. The three drivers were covered by a handerchief at the end of the leg with Sordo in the lead, 1 second in front of Solberg with Ogier a further 2.8 seconds further back. “I’m very happy with my day and the car felt good right from the start,” said the Norwegian. “Recently, I’ve already been in a position to battle for victory, but I haven’t managed to clinch it yet. At present I just want to enjoy this moment with all those who work with me.”
The other two private DS3 WRCs retired during the first day: Kimi Räikkönen because of an accident in a liaison stage and Peter Van Merksteijn Jr. who went off in Ungersberg 2 (SS6).
On Saturday, Petter took first place in the event after setting the fastest time in Firstplan 1 (SS10). In the next stage, the 2003 world champion lost forty seconds due to a slow puncture: “I don’t know where we punctured as I didn’t hit anything. As we weren’t too far from the finish we didn’t stop to change the wheel. This puncture cost us dearly!”
Solberg finished the second day in the provisional top three, 42.4 seconds behind the leader Sébastien Ogier. He then made sure he held this position till the finish.”
At post-race scrutineering, the Norwegian’s DS3 WRC was checked and found to be 4 kilos under the minimum weight. “Petter is very disappointed as he drove brilliantly to score his third podium finish of the season. It’s also a big disappointment for our team,” said Benoît Nogier, the Citroën Racing Technologies director. “Obviously, we thought that our car’s weight complied with the regulations. Our safety margin, identical to the one we apply all year, wasn’t enough.” It has decided not to appeal against this decision.