Fifth at the start of the longest WRC leg since 2002, Mads Østberg and Jonas Andersson ended the day on the provisional podium at Rally Italia Sardegna.
The coffee machine was running at full capacity when the teams left parc ferme bright and breezy this morning, bang on six o’clock. After retiring yesterday, Kris Meeke and Paul Nagle were the first to reach service. Faced with the unenviable job of running first on the road for this leg, the Irish pair were aiming to regain their confidence in the car, rack up as much experience as possible and try to get into a position to score a few points for the Manufacturers’ World Championship.
Fifth overall on Friday evening, Mads Østberg and Jonas Andersson were feeling confident in spite of the mammoth challenge posed by today’s leg. The day’s nine stages added up to a lengthy total of 212.83km, a distance not seen in the WRC since the 2002 Safari Rally held in Kenya.
It was a difficult leg, with extremely rough road conditions.
On roads that he particularly enjoys, Mads helped himself to a stage win on SS13, Coiluna – Loelle. His time enabled him to grab fourth place from Jari-Matti Latvala. The Norwegian then dropped around forty seconds on SS14 (Monti di Ala’) due to a slow puncture. He nonetheless managed to hold onto fourth position, heading for the midday service with renewed confidence.
The afternoon’s racing unfolded in more or less the same manner as in the morning for Mads and Jonas: a stage win on the second run on Coiluna, a slow puncture on Monti di Ala’ and one position gained during the loop. The no.4 DS 3 WRC ended this marathon leg of over fifteen hours on the provisional podium!
Despite feeling tired, Kris Meeke also had more to smile about at the end of a very positive day. Looking sharp on the second runs, the Rally Argentina winner finished consistently in the top three!
Sixteenth after making hard work of the first day, Khalid Al-Qassimi and Chris Patterson kept out of trouble Saturdays’ long leg. The regularly moved up the standings to make it back to parc ferme in Alghero in eleventh place, just outside the points!
Following two very full days, Sunday’s schedule may seem somewhat modest. Having already been sorely tested, the drivers and their cars nonetheless have to complete another four stages, covering a total of 45.8km.
Mads Østberg: “It was a difficult leg, with extremely rough road conditions. I think we managed our race well and I think it’s worth stressing how reliable the DS 3 WRC has been. We didn’t have any problems at all. I just lost time due to the wheel valves, which caused my two slow punctures. If I hadn’t lost those two minutes, I would be second tonight. We’re still in with a chance, but I really don’t know how much of a chance we’re talking about. Sometimes, this rally can be pretty gruelling!”
Kris Meeke: “Today was an interesting experience for me. We were first on the road for the wrong reasons, but one day I hope to be in this situation as leader of the World Championship! This morning, above all we were looking to get a good feeling in the car after not driving for most of yesterday. Gradually, the feeling came and we set some pretty decent times. On the second runs, I was able to push hard as the racing line was already swept clean. Although we had a few minor issues with the gearshift selector, we had four good stages, with times similar to the guys who are fighting for the win.”
Khalid Al Qassimi: “What an exhausting day! As well as the stages themselves, the road sections were long too and we needed a lot of coffee to make it through! After a pretty disastrous opening leg, things went a lot better today. Thanks to the hard work of the engineers, we managed to improve the set-up over the course of the stages. I was cautious, perhaps too much so, but that’s what enabled us to move up the standings.”