Carlos, "campeon para siempre"! "Carlos Sainz, champion for ever", said one of the numerous banners displayed by the aficionados of this most popular of Spanish champions. At the end of the 194th rally of his brilliant career, Carlos Sainz,...
Carlos, "campeon para siempre"!
"Carlos Sainz, champion for ever", said one of the numerous banners displayed by the aficionados of this most popular of Spanish champions. At the end of the 194th rally of his brilliant career, Carlos Sainz, with the help of Marc Marti, fought until the very end with Marcus Grönholm for second place, and added a 96th podium - his eighth of the season - to his unequalled, possibly unbeatable, career record.
The weather had promised rain for Sunday. Luckily, it took place during the night, meaning that all the competitors were faced with wet conditions for the first loop of the day, made up of three special stages. As the starting order meant that the top fifteen were in reversed order, the leading men had to contend with the mud spread over the road by the previous drivers. Carlos Sainz had made a brave choice, fitting his Xsara with soft 'N' Michelin tyres for dry conditions. "We found some dry places, and some really bad ones," the Citroën driver said at the service park after the long SS17. "My choice was a bit daring, but it proved to be efficient..." Marcus Grönholm was now only 9.2 seconds ahead of the Spaniard.
For the second loop, identical to the first, the main factor to take into account was how much the roads would have dried. Considering that this would happen only gradually, Carlos Sainz and the Citroën team opted for soft tyres, being the only car to have placed these in their quota. Unfortunately, Carlos found that the roads had dried too much and were too dirty for this choice to be able to overturn the battle...
Much acclaimed at the final service park, the Madrid-based driver, extremely relaxed, started off by joking : "I don't know how I manage to do it. I can never just maintain position in the third leg. On Sunday, I am always still fighting hard with someone or other. I really tried everything to get passed Marcus. He was able to put up strong resistance, bravo ! Seb was unlucky here. He was really 'very fast', and I think he could have won. For us, this was a rally full of emotion, the last time through these special stages, in front of my public. The result doesn't really matter, in the end. The crowds flocked to support us. They gave me a wonderful gift, and I would like to thank them..."
For Guy Fréquelin, "Sébastien's rally, unfortunately cut short, proved that the time differences in Corsica were purely down to the decision to favour the title fight. Our Xsara, when Seb is pushing, has undoubtedly the potential to be at the front. I will also remember the superb performance from Carlos Sainz during this Rally Catalunia, fighting tooth and nail until the finish line, and rewarded by a well-deserved podium."