The end of a troubled weekend for Citroen Citroen Total World Rally Team's winning run came to an end today in Sardinia where Sebastien Loeb and Daniel Elena finished the Rally d'Italia-Sardegna in fourth position. The result hasn't prevented...
The end of a troubled weekend for Citroen
Citroen Total World Rally Team's winning run came to an end today in Sardinia where Sebastien Loeb and Daniel Elena finished the Rally d'Italia-Sardegna in fourth position. The result hasn't prevented them from completing the first half of the 2009 World Championship with a handsome lead in the provisional standings, however, while Citroen continues to top the Manufacturers' table.
The third and final leg on the Mediterranean island featured a competitive programme of five stages totalling 80km, and was consequently no stroll for the surviving crews. Sebastien began the day with a significant gap separating him from the lead, and his sole aim was to secure a good finish and pocket valuable points. After the morning's opening test, the reigning champion spoke of a distinct lack of visibility as a result of hanging dust: "The dust didn't have time to settle; it just hung in the air because of the morning's humidity. I couldn't see a thing. It was very dangerous and there were several places where I was practically at a standstill." After dropping a further handful of seconds on 'Sorilis', the Frenchman reached the service park in Olbia in fourth place, but still upbeat about his chances of a podium finish.
Following his turbo troubles of Saturday afternoon, Dani Sordo's objective was to ensure he pocketed Manufacturers' points for Citroen, but in the end he was again slowed by a similar problem: "We dropped another 20 minutes or so. I had to keep stopping to let the other cars pass, and that meant I was then in their dust. We're still in the running, though, and that's the main thing. We need to make it to the finish."
After the service halt, the crews still had the Arzachena stage to come, plus a repeat visit to the morning's first two tests. This time, Loeb and Elena benefited from a clear run and went on to round off the weekend with a fastest time on the final stage. The Franco-Monegasque pair completed the rally in third place, but were handed a two-minute time penalty which dropped them to fourth. "The stewards judged that Daniel had taken off his harness belt too soon when the crew stopped to change a wheel on SS11," explains Olivier Quesnel. "That said, they took into account the fact that it wasn't dangerous because they were driving slowly at the time. We accept the decision."
Sebastien's thoughts are now already turned to the future: "I am obviously disappointed that our winning streak has come to an end, but it had to happen one day. At least people will stop talking about a possible grand slam this season, which is something I have never given a thought to myself. Our problems this weekend prove that nothing can be taken for granted in this championship which is turning out to be as challenging as ever. We need to keep on working to try to turn the tables on our rivals in Greece."
With the number of spare turbos available for Sardinia and Greece restricted, the technical team decided to switch the engine of Dani and Marc's C4 to normally-aspirated mode, but the Spaniards had the pleasure of reaching the finish: "Our engine was cruelly down on power, but we still managed to have fun down the downhill bits! It was important to reach the finish. We succeeded, and that means two extra points for Citroen in the Manufacturers' World Championship."