Thanks to the excellent second place of SÃ©bastien Loeb/Daniel Elena and the tenacity of Carlos Sainz/Marc Marti, CitroÃ«n, the only manufacturer to bring both nominated cars to the finish line at Lamia, has regained the lead in the FIA World...
Thanks to the excellent second place of Sébastien Loeb/Daniel Elena and the tenacity of Carlos Sainz/Marc Marti, Citroën, the only manufacturer to bring both nominated cars to the finish line at Lamia, has regained the lead in the FIA World Rally Manufacturers' Championship.
As far as the Drivers competition is concerned, Sébastien put in a fine performance. The young French driver now has a lead of five points over Petter Solberg, his nearest rival.
Third yesterday evening, Seb had announced that he intended to do everything in order to move up another place. He knew, however, that it would not be easy. Since he retired early last year, he had never seen two of the day's three special stages, "Dikastro" and "Agios Stefanos", in race conditions. This did not prevent him from setting the fastest time in the former. Harri Rovanperä's lead therefore went down from 8.8 to 3.5 seconds. At the same time, François Duval fell back, letting his two rivals continue their fight without him. Harri's reply came in SS18, when he increased his margin to 4.4 seconds.
The third SS of the loop, "Styrfaka", was new for everyone. "This special stage is very difficult," Seb explained. " It is barely wider than the car, with peaks where you can only see the sky beyond the end of the bonnet, followed by corners which get tighter … That was there I took my chances, pushing as hard as I could…" Returning to Lamia, Rovanperä was only 0.3 of a second ahead. Two more fastest times for the Xsara (SS20 and 22) got the better of the stubborn resistance shown from the Finnish driver. "It was a fine and exciting race," a smiling Seb said at the finish line. "We were able to climb back up because the car was perfect … It was far from easy, after spending the first day sweeping the way…"
It was obvious that Friday's leg was the most difficult. While Seb was opening the road, Carlos lost all hopes of a good finish (broken shock absorber, SS4). " My own race stopped at that point," the Spanish Champion noted . "But that of Citroën carried on. I am happy to have claimed three points, and to have been able to help Seb."
"I was delighted with Carlos," Guy Fréquelin explained. "A driver with his sort of career record, finding himself forty minutes back, could easily have decided to stop. This did not even occur to him. Thanks to the points that he was ensuring, Sébastien was able to push without worries. The second place he won also belongs, to some extent, to Carlos. We have stored up some precious points. And I was very satisfied to see, that in terms of pure performance, we are, as I had hoped, in the leading group."
"I must admit that I was slightly worried on Friday," admitted Claude Satinet, General Director of Automobiles Citroën. "But the team saved the situation magnificently, and was able to bring the two Xsaras to the finish line. To work with such talented, serious and professional teams as ours, is a real pleasure…"