Petter Solberg (Subaru) was never troubled and claimed his third consecutive victory. He extended his overnight lead to win by 2min 07.9sec, having won 13 of the 19 stages. Second place for Sebastien Loeb (Citroen) moved him to within touching ...
Petter Solberg (Subaru) was never troubled and claimed his third consecutive victory. He extended his overnight lead to win by 2min 07.9sec, having won 13 of the 19 stages. Second place for Sebastien Loeb (Citroen) moved him to within touching distance of his maiden world title. After Martin's retirement, Carlos Sainz (Citroen) claimed third to move the French team closer to the manufacturers' title. Private entrant Andrea Navarra finished a superb fourth on his home event while Gigi Galli rounded off the top six in a Group N car, despite gearbox problems during the final three tests. Marcus Gronholm (Peugeot) recovered from yesterday's turbo problems to climb to seventh. Such was the rate of attrition that only 29 of the 67 starters finished.
Petter Solberg and co-driver Phil Mills took victory on Rally Italia Sardinia today to claim their third consecutive WRC win. Leading the event from the outset, the pair were fastest on 13 of the rally's 19 stages and finished 2 minutes 7.9 seconds ahead of second placed Sebastien Loeb. Success on Pirelli's home event was the third consecutive 'local' win for the team, following victories in Japan, the home of Subaru, and Great Britain, where the team is based. The result also marked Subaru's 44th WRC victory and its 43rd with the Impreza.
Petter Solberg / Phil Mills: "It's a fantastic feeling, but it's been really hard work all the way - Phil was cheering as we crossed the finish line, but I was still too focused on the driving to take it all in! It's been a very good few rallies, let me tell you, and it's a great feeling to take another win here, the team have been working so hard, and I think we've proved that we're the best team on gravel now."
Mikko Hirvonen / Jarmo Lehtinen: "Well, today has been perfect, no problems at all and everything worked as it should. We tried some of Petter's settings this afternoon and they helped us take another positive step. Obviously it's a shame that I wasn't able to take any points from Sardinia, but Jarmo and I have learned a lot about this rally and that's going to be very helpful for next year."
With the second place of Sebastien Loeb/Daniel Elena and the third place of Carlos Sainz/Marc Marti, the two Xsara WRCs have scored valuable points for both Manufacturers' and Drivers' Championships. Only three rounds before the final target, Citroën and their crews are lying only a few points from a possible conquest of the two titles.
Sebastien Loeb only needs five points to become World Champion and Citroën seven points to give the Xsara its second crown. There are three remaining events to reach the targets which were set at the beginning of the season.
Sebastien Loeb / Daniel Elena: "Just after the first stage, I said to myself that it will be difficult to beat Petter Solberg here. I went faster in some places but he always kept his lead. When Marcus Gronholm had some problems, I thought it wasn't stupid to go for the second place. And that's what we've done, just before two events which should be favourable to us. Actually, I won't hide that I would really like to win Corsica."
Carlos Sainz / Marc Marti: "This event was very difficult for engineers and technicians as we were driving on a new terrain. We had quickly to find the most appropriate settings. It was also very tricky for the drivers due to the very narrow stages and the rocks interspersing on the sides. Despite all that, the team has scored a fantastic result with two cars in the top three. On my side, I'm now lying third in the Drivers' Championship and I will try to defend this position."
BP-Ford World Rally Team drivers Francois Duval and Stephane Prevot today claimed their ninth points result of the season when they finished fifth on the Rally Italia Sardinia. Team-mates Markko Martin and Michael Park were on course to score their third consecutive podium finish until an engine problem sidelined their Castrol-branded Focus RS less than 40km from the finish.
Markko Martin / Michael Park: "The turbo failed. It made a big hole in the housing and because oil was leaking onto the hot engine, every time we tried to start the car, the turbo caught fire. We put out the flames and blocked the pipes which feed oil to cool the turbo. That prevented the engine from catching fire again and eventually we finished the stage. We tried so hard to reach the next control point before exceeding the time limit but arrived there just two minutes too late and had to withdraw."
Francios Duval / Stephane Prevot: "It has been a difficult event and I'm happy to see the finish. I've not had full confidence this weekend. The handling was unpredictable for the first two days, although it felt much better today. The roads here are very specialised. They're twisty, rough and narrow with many big stones to hit. I've not really enjoyed the stages and maybe the best plan for me is to go back to the asphalt in Sanremo!"
Marcus Gronholm has finished the inaugural Rally d'Italia-Sardinia in 7th place, after an unlucky event for the Peugeot team. Under difficult circumstances, the Finn's tireless efforts have earned Peugeot 4 manufacturers' points. Harri Rovanpera was forced to retire from a strong sixth place on the second day, following a transmission failure.
Marcus Gronholm / Timo Rautiainen: "It's been a tough, frustrating and disappointing rally. It took me a little while to find my rhythm, but eventually I was able to discover a good feeling with the car. I think we have proved once more that the 307WRC has the pace to win on gravel, and now I am looking forward to proving its pace on asphalt, on the next two rallies in Corsica and Spain."
On the WRC's first visit to Sardinia both Skoda Fabias suffered suspension failures after hitting rocks on the incredibly narrow roads. However, returning to competition under the SupeRally rules, Toni Gardemeister was able to show the pace of the Fabia WRC by setting top nine times on six of Saturday's seven stages including seventh fastest on the event's longest stage. The format of the final day with no mid-day service to make adjustments, prompted a strategic decision not to take the opportunity to re-enter under SupeRally on this occasion. Skoda Motorsport now switches the Fabia WRC over to asphalt specification for its final two WRC events of the 2004 season.
The championship remains in the Mediterranean for round 14. Teams make the short journey from Sardinia to Corsica for the Rallye de France. The all-asphalt event is based in the coastal town of Ajaccio from 14 -17 October.