Rally de Portugal
The Citroën DS3 WRC take up position
After battling in tenths of seconds and having set most of the quickest times, the Citroën Total World Rally Team crews are in a perfect position for the second leg of Rally Portugal. Sébastien Loeb / Daniel Elena and Sébastien Ogier / Julien Ingrassia are lying third and fourth some fifteen seconds behind the leader, and will be able to take advantage of ideal positions on the road tomorrow, Saturday.
Rally Portugal is one of the most popular events in the FIA World Rally Championship and it has confirmed its reputation in 2011. The start and the first stage took place in Lisbon, and over 40 000 people joined in the party. With autograph sessions, a drivers’ parade in DS drop head couples for the Citroën Total World Rally Team crews, everything was laid on to allow spectators to get close to the WRC stars.
On their return to the Algarve, 270 kilometers further south, the Citroën DS3 WRCs’ wheels hit the gravel to tackle two loops of three stages. Right from the start, battle was joined between five crews in front of tens of thousands of spectators. Petter Solberg, Sébastien Loeb, Sébastien Ogier and Jari-Matti Latvala shared the fastest times. Mikko Hirvonen, who was first out on the road, was able to put up a strong fight as sweeping played a less important role than expected. Only Solberg, who suffered punctures, fell away from the leading group.
In the day’s final stage, the two Citroën Total World Rally Team crews adjusted their pace to take advantage of better conditions for the rest of the rally. Sébastien Loeb finished in third place 13.7s behind the leader. Sébastien Ogier was just behind his team-mate, 16.7s in arrears.
“That was a good day,” said the seven-time world champion as he climbed out of his Citroën DS3 WRC. “The gaps are very small and I’m happy with my position. It was a great scrap. We didn’t lose much time over the whole leg. I was rather surprised by the lack of sweeping which usually penalizes the leader severely. I hope that there’ll be a good line tomorrow. We’ll see, but we’ve got every reason to be satisfied with our start to the rally.”
“From what we’ve seen since reconnaissance began, I feel that we’re well placed. We’ll see if I’m right, but we won’t know till tomorrow. We’ll have to keep up the pace and see how the gaps evolve,” declared Ogier.
Olivier Quesnel, the Citroën Racing Team Principal summed up: “Our aim was not to be in the lead. We want to win on Sunday and the way this leg has panned out is in keeping with our plans. We had to finish the day in the same positions as this morning with small gaps. The competition’s very tough. It’s difficult to make the break.”
There are six stages (148,10 timed kilometers) on Saturday’s menu on gravel roads a little further east in the Serra do Caldeirao.