Sebastien Loeb (Citroen) took no risks to claim his third win of the season and move into the lead of the driver's championship. His winning margin over Petter Solberg (Subaru) was 59.6sec and he now holds a one point advantage over the Norwegian.
Sebastien Loeb (Citroen) took no risks to claim his third win of the season and move into the lead of the driver's championship. His winning margin over Petter Solberg (Subaru) was 59.6sec and he now holds a one point advantage over the Norwegian. Marcus Gronholm (Peugeot) completed a superb recovery from his first day roll to finish third, comfortably seeing off team-mate Markko Martin. Private entrant Juuso Pykalisto took the final drivers' point in eighth. Francois Duval (Citroen), who rolled on the first day, and Janne Tuohino (Skoda), who went off the road on the second leg, returned under the SupeRally rules to finish 11th and 13th respectively and take the final manufacturers' points. Harri Rovanpera (Mitsubishi) started the day in the final podium position but a broken front right compression strut ended his rally after stage 13. Team-mate Gigi Galli's (Mitsubishi) troubled rally ended after the opening stage with a broken gearbox. Armin Schwarz (Skoda), due to restart under the SupeRally rules, was excluded late last night for receiving outside assistance shortly after yesterday's early morning service.
Fifty-eight of the original 66 competitors left Olbia parc ferme at 0630hrs this morning
The third and final Leg included six stages and 66.32 competitive kilometres. Based in the region of Limbara, the stages were located to the north and north west of the service park in Olbia
Conditions were bright and sunny throughout the day, with an air temperature that started at 15C and rose to 25C by mid-afternoon. Stages were dry gravel
Sebastien Loeb dominated the Italian round of the World Rally Championship at the weekend (29 April - 1 May), guiding their Citroen Xsara to victory over Petter Solberg by nearly a minute and in the process taking over the lead in the World Rally Championship from the Subaru driver. Loeb's domination of the rally of Sardinia - he lead from stage three to the end of the event and scored twice as many stage wins as his nearest rival - was achieved through the reliability of his Citroen Xsara, an excellent choice of tyres and a skilful and well paced drive from the Frenchman. Team mate Francois Duval managed to score manufacturers points despite a first-day roll off the track into the bush that left his Xsara on its side and minus a rear wheel. Following repairs and a re-start, he went on to finish in 11th place.
Sebastien Loeb / Daniel Elena: "There was no wind and, like everyone else, I was hampered by the fairly thick cloud of dust thrown up by the preceding cars," said the reigning World Champion at the finish. "I therefore lifted each time I had to and pushed hard as soon as the conditions allowed. The car was perfect. In the following stages, I was careful not to make any mistakes while keeping a close eye on the times of my closest chaser, Petter Solberg. Winning back to back in New Zealand and here in Sardinia has put us back in the lead of the championship and promises some exciting battles to come!"
Francois Duval / Stephane Prevot: Retired
Subaru's Petter Solberg finished Rally Italia Sardinia in second place today, more than two minutes ahead of third-placed Marcus Gronholm. Taking a total of three stage wins, the Norwegian overcame the disadvantage of running first on the road during Leg one to collect eight points in both the Drivers' and Manufacturers' Championship. Both Chris Atkinson and Stephane Sarrazin fulfilled their objectives of gaining experience aboard their Subaru Impreza WRC2005s. Clinching a stage win, Chris moved up six places on the overall leaderboard today, while Stephane completed an excellent gravel rally debut.
Petter Solberg / Phil Mills: I am very happy actually. In the circumstances it's good to take second place and I'd like to thank everyone in the team for their hard work. It's been a good fight with Sebastien, but of course I'd hoped it would be a lot closer. But, it didn't happen like that and so I've got the best result I could. At this point in the Championship it's still very close and I think it's going to be a very interesting year. The key thing we have to do is work harder to find some more performance, but we have a good plan and I'm 100 per cent confident that we will succeed.
Chris Atkinson/Glen Macneall: We had another good day out there today, I'll always be happy to get a fastest stage time. Overall I'm pleased with what we've learned here in Sardinia. We've found a good pace and a car set-up that I'm comfortable with. It's a good basis to build upon and the rally has been useful preparation for the new few events. I'm looking forward to them.
Stephane Sarrazin/Denis Giraudet: Very good, I'm very happy and think I've improved over the weekend massively. I've made positive steps all the time and I'm happy because I've been fighting with Kresta, Henning Solberg, Higgins and many drivers that have done this a lot more than I have. It's been a good weekend's work, no crashes. I didn't take too many risks because I'm still not confident enough, but it's a very good start before the next gravel rally. One week ago, I had never driven on gravel, but now I feel I'm starting to be a good driver on a range of surfaces.
BP-Ford World Rally Team drivers Toni Gardemeister and Jakke Honkanen and team-mates Roman Kresta and Jan Mozny both secured points finishes today after a gruelling Rally Italia Sardinia. Their Ford Focus RS World Rally Cars headed a quartet of Focus cars on the leaderboard of this fifth round of the FIA World Rally Championship, which produced an extraordinarily high rate of attrition.
Toni Gardemeister/Jakke Honkanen: "I've been cruising today, driving at a pace which ensured I would finish," said 30-year-old Gardemeister. "Considering I wasn't pushing, I was happy with my stage times. We scored good points and when I was throwing stones for five hours in the dark in the woods last night waiting for the team to come and collect our car, I didn't think that would be possible. It's been a tough weekend but one which turned out well. My pre-event test helped establish a good set-up for the Focus, and although I'm not 100 per cent there yet, everything is heading in the right direction."
Roman Kresta/Jan Mozny: "I can't believe it!" said the overjoyed Czech. "It was vital for both me and the team to finish this rally. Just being here at the end was my primary target. I've driven very, very carefully and it paid off. Not only did I finish, but I finished in the points and took my best result. The first stage this morning was so dusty it was like driving in fog but otherwise all has gone well today."
Mikko Hirvonen/Jarmo Lehtinen: Retired
Peugeot driver Marcus Gronholm has been able to rise to the magnificent challenge of moving from the bottom of the field to third place overall on the Rally d'Italia-Sardinia. On a tense final day, he pressured the Mitsubishi of his key rival Harri Rovanpera into making a mistake. The other Peugeot 307WRC of Markko Martin finished just behind in fourth, crowning an excellent day for Peugeot. This result means that Peugeot has maintained its lead of the constructors championship, with an 11-point gap to Citroen.
Marcus Gronholm / Timo Rautiainen: "I really wasn't sure if I would be able to pass Harri, especially when I saw that he was fast on the first stage today. I thought my only chance would be to keep him under pressure, and this tactic must have worked because he went off on the following stage. It's been a tough rally - maybe the toughest of the year - but the car has once more been perfectly reliable which is very encouraging. Now I would like to find a bit more speed."
Markko Martin/Michael Park: "There was not a lot I could do today apart from try and drive safely to the finish. That still required the maximum concentration, because the conditions and the stages were extremely difficult. But I've learnt a lot on this event about the car and the tyres, which will be very useful for the three rough and hot rallies coming up in Cyprus, Turkey and Greece."
The Mitsubishi Motors Motor Sports crew of Harri Rovanpera and Risto Pietilainen enjoyed their best outing of the season in Rally Italia Sardinia, the Lancer WRC05 crew 4th at the end of the first leg and 3rd overall last night. However, they were forced into retirement from 3rd position after hitting a rock and breaking the suspension in today's second stage. Team-mates "Gigi" Galli and Guido D'Amore have endured a difficult event and retired with gearbox failure.
Harri Rovanpera/Risto Pietilainen: "We hit a rock and broke one of the front right suspension components", said Harri. "We didn't have a spare in the car and tried to fix it using tools and clips, but we only managed to get another three or four kilometers before it broke again. Okay, it's disappointing but we agreed we would go for it today and these things can happen; it's better to be fighting for the podium position. We proved we can push in these conditions and that both cars, with a clean run, can be very competitive. Hopefully we can carry this through to Cyprus".
Gigi Galli/Guido D'Amore: Four corners into the stage I lost three gears", said Gigi. "In 100 rallies I don't think I can remember an event where I have had so many problems. Obviously it's a big disappointment for me, the team and my Italian fans, but it is my attitude to always look on the positive side. When we had a clean run we were really able to fight and setting one fastest time was very satisfying. It's a tough event but we are making progress, experience and kilometers all the time. Every rally I take something positive home".
Janne Tuohino claimed a hard-fought manufacturers' points-scoring finish on his first visit to Sardinia with the ©koda Fabia WRC 05. His overall position was compromised by a problem with the automatic gearshift system during the first three stages of the event that led to him having to run first on the road throughout Saturday and third on Sunday. A thick layer of loose gravel ensured that he was unable to match his rivals' times for the last two days but he ended the fifth round of the WRC in 13th place.
Janne Tuohino/Mikko Markkula: I lost my chance of a good result in the first few stages of this rally and once we had to run first on the road for Saturday I could only try to be at the finish. We have come away from Sardinia with a point for the team but we all know that it could have been better because the Fabia has been improved a lot in our recent testing.
Armin Schwarz/Klaus Wicha: Armin Schwarz was excluded by the stewards on Saturday evening after it was discovered that he had been handed a bottle of oil outside of a permitted service zone. The mistake occurred during a confused first service of the day after Armin's Fabia WRC 05 had needed some last minute work to prevent a possible transmission problem. The team decided not to appeal the stewards' decision. On Friday Armin had run as high as sixth on a day when he was able to demonstrate the agility of the Fabia WRC 05 on Sardinia's tight and twisty stages.
The holiday island of Cyprus plays host to round six of the FIA World Rally Championship. Starting on 13 May, Rally Cyprus is the slowest and hottest rally of the World Championship, making it a true endurance test for drivers and cars. The air temperature can regularly exceed 30C during the three-day event, putting the emphasis on stamina and physical fitness. The rally's 18 tests take place high up in the picturesque Troodos mountains, which offer a calm and rustic contrast to the bustling tourist resorts along the coast. At 38.32km, the longest stage will be the Lagoudera - Spilia stage used as SS1 and SS4, while, at 7.57km, the shortest will be the Asinou - Agios Theodoros stage used as SS3 and SS6.