A 25th WRC win for Daniel Elena (Citroen/BFGoodrich): a new record! * Sebastien Loeb and his co-driver Daniel Elena (Citroen/BFGoodrich) secure their 25th world class rally win! * There's a long way to go before it reaches...
A 25th WRC win for Daniel Elena (Citroen/BFGoodrich): a new record!
* Sebastien Loeb and his co-driver Daniel Elena (Citroen/BFGoodrich) secure their 25th world class rally win!
* There's a long way to go before it reaches Daniel's score, but a seventh win for BFGoodrich extends the firm's 100% record since its arrival in the World Rally Championship.
* Loeb + Hirvonen + Sordo another all-BFGoodrich podium
Daniel Elena, who has called out the pacenotes for Sebastien Loeb since 1998, can today celebrate a new outright record for the highest number of WRC wins for a co- driver, beating the existing score established by Carlos Sainz's former right-hand man Luis Moya. The Italian round saw Loeb and Elena (Citroen/BFGoodrich) claim their fifth consecutive win this year after early pacesetter Marcus Gronholm was sidelined on Saturday morning. The Finn's team-mate Ford/BFGoodrich Mikko Hirvonen (2 nd) did however go on to ensure his first podium finish of the year, while 3 rdfor Dani Sordo (Citroen/BFGoodrich) strengthens the Spaniard's grip on third place in the provisional Drivers' championship standings.
This weekend saw Monaco-born Daniel Elena, who has sat alongside Sebastien Loeb for all of 114 rallies, collect the 25th victory of his career at world level, although in some ways his win could be considered somewhat fortunate inasmuch as Marcus Gronholm and Timo Rautiainen (Ford/BFGoodrich) looked at one point to be heading for their third success of the year. The Finnish pair effectively profited from the first three stages of the first leg to pull out a healthy 40-second gap after just 64km of competitive action. True, they did benefit from a clearer line swept clean by Loeb who was running first on the world, but Marcus visibly pulled out all the stops during the early part of the event as he romped ahead. My set-up is good and the new evolution medium compound g-Force Gravel 9 is giving excellent grip. Everything's fine," commented Gronholm at the end of Day 1 which was marked by searing heat (with ground temperatures of up to 43C) and very rough conditions second time through the stages.
The following day, however, his Ford was halted close to the finish of SS8 after he hit a half-buried rock in the middle of the track which resulted in an oil leak. You just couldn't avoid it, said Loeb who ran over the same rock but who was more fortunate than his rival. "It was in a braking zone for a hairpin. My Xsara bucked, but thankfully nothing was damaged." And with Gronholm no longer in the running, the provisional 2006 Drivers' championship leader was able to cruise home to his 25th WRC win which leaves him just one short of record-holder Carlos Sainz and level with Colin McRae.
Henning Solberg (Peugeot/BFGoodrich) was 3rd overall before hitting a tree on Saturday morning. That left Gigi Galli (Peugeot) and Dani Sordo to fight it out for third spot before the Italian was later sidelined by an overheating engine. It turned out to be a weekend to forget for Subaru when Petter Solberg and Chris Atkinson's troubles culminated in retirement just before the finish. This year's Rally d'Italia-Sardegna, the first European gravel encounter of the year, effectively proved a challenge for many drivers, yet Mikko Hirvonen (2nd, Ford/BFGoodrich) and Dani Sordo (3rd,Citroen/BFGoodrich) both stood out by their first class performances.
Aime Chatard (BFGoodrich's Rally Programme Manager): "It was a rock too far for Marcus Gronholm! Just as it seemed we were in for an exciting showdown between Marcus and Sebastien, their fight was cut short by a half-buried rock in the middle of the track. There was a big difference in the pace at which the two runs at the stages were run, with the second passes more than a second per kilometre faster than the first. It was almost as though each leg was divided into two distinct rallies. Our drivers chose the medium soft compound for the morning's run and then switched to the harder option for the afternoon in order to be able to make it through to end of the loops, and pretty much on 'slicks'in some cases. Friday afternoon's loop was especially hard on tyres and served as a full scale test for the next round in Greece in a fortnight's time. Marcus and Sebastien made identical choices (new evolution g-Force Gravel 9 for Friday and Saturday morning), so it is difficult for us to evaluate the exact gain represented by our new evolution tyre for the moment. But after Friday morning's experience, they were both pleased to be able to run the same tyres the following morning--"
A NEW BFGOODRICH TYRE FOR THE ACROPOLIS RALLY
The Rally d'Italia Sardegna is classed as one of the WRC's average-wearing rallies and accordingly permitted just one type of tread pattern. However, the second passes through Friday's stages proved extremely hard-wearing and gave a foretaste of what next month's Acropolis Rally could well be like.
According to BFGoodrich's engineers and technicians, who recently travelled to Greece to recce the 2006 route, the new stages close to Athens are likely to be particularly hard-wearing and rough. The Acropolis Rally permits two tread patterns and BFGoodrich has profited from this to launch a new tyre (new construction, new compound) which is even stronger than the g-Force Gravel 9+ used in Sardinia. Its name will be revealed at a later date. Tests with the firm's partner teams have proved particularly encouraging and BFGoodrich's drivers are expected to nominate the newcomer in their individual tyre loads which will be confirmed next Wednesday.