Third at the start of the final day of Rally Italia Sardegna, Mads Østberg and Jonas Andersson just about managed to hold onto fifth place in the overall standings.
After two long legs, the final day of Rally Italia Sardegna looked set to be less hectic. The crews nonetheless had to tackle four stages, with 45.80km of timed sections and completed without any service period.
As there were clear gaps between the cars, the DS 3 WRC drivers were not considering making any out-and-out attacks. However, during the first pass on Olmedo Monte Baranta (SS20), Mads Østberg went off the road after a bizarre and unfortunate series of circumstances. Distracted by losing one of his ear plugs, the Norwegian ran wide on a corner where he had a bad pace note!
I simply made a mistake and it has ended up costing us a podium spot.
The no.4 DS 3 WRC ended the stage over a minute off the pace and dropped down to fourth position. With his rear suspension and brakes damaged, Mads was forced to drive slowly to the end of the event. He could do nothing as he dropped another place on the next test, but just about managed to hold off Jari-Matti Latvala and hang onto fifth at the end.
Having taken tenth position on the opening stage of the day, Khalid Al-Qassimi continued his sensible, disciplined race to add another point to his tally. Kris Meeke finished a long way back from the leaders but secured two extra Manufacturers’ points for the Citroën Total Abu Dhabi World Rally Team.
After two retirements due to an off (Friday) and electrical problems (Saturday), Stéphane Lefebvre and Stéphane Prévôt rejoined again this morning in their DS 3 RRC. The 2014 Junior WRC champion showed some real form to grab two top-three stage times in the WRC 2 class.
Marek Nawarecki (Deputy Team Principal Citroën Racing): “This rally has more than lived up to expectations as an extreme event, with long legs, very rough stages and soaring temperatures that have been very demanding for the crews and the cars. Apart from the winner, the final overall standings have been largely determined by the number of problems encountered by the various drivers! In losing one of our DS 3 WRCs on the second stage, we weren’t in the best situation. Mads gradually picked up his pace, but he also had a number of issues to contend with. We have to be fairly pleased with fifth place, which takes him into second position in the Drivers’ World Championship. The points scored by Kris also ensured the team holds onto second place in the Manufacturers’ standings.”
Mads Østberg: “I simply made a mistake and it has ended up costing us a podium spot. Sometimes, you manage to get away with an overly optimistic pace note, but that wasn’t the case today. The corner was very tight and I ran too wide into a rock hidden behind a bush. We damaged the rear right-hand suspension and the brakes when we hit it. We then spent our time repairing the car and trying to nurse it to the finish. So I’m pleased to have made it to the end of the rally! After a series of very rough events, I can’t wait to tackle the faster, smoother stages at Rally Poland.”
Khalid Al Qassimi: “It was a long event with extremely rough stages and a timetable that meant we only had three or four hours of sleep per night. I was struggling to get the right feeling and so I couldn’t really push. Having said that, it was perhaps just as well I didn’t push on such a brutal course for the cars and the tyres. I’m pleased to make it to the end and finish in the top 10.”
Kris Meeke: “After a disastrous start to the race, rejoining under Rally2 rules yesterday was an interesting and rewarding experience. My times were pretty good, especially in the afternoon. Today was just about getting around and collecting some points for the team in the Manufacturers’ World Championship. We did just that and now I’ll switch my attention to Rally Poland. We know about the potential of the car and we’ve got a chance of getting a good result provided we work hard.”
Stéphane Lefebvre: “During the first leg, I got caught out after braking too hard on a downhill section. We rejoined yesterday under Rally2 rules, but the day was also cut short due to an electronic unit failure. Finally, today I was able to set some good times on the Olmedo stage, where I had good pace notes. This weekend enabled by to get my first experience in the DS 3 RRC, which is very different to the R5. It’s an experience that will prove useful in the future.”