RALLY ITALIA SARDEGNA (5-8/06/2014) – DAY 1
Mads Østberg and Jonas Andersson won one stage on their way to ending day one of Rally di Sardegna in third position in their Citroën DS3 WRC.An electrical problem prevented Kris Meeke and Paul Nagle from making it to the service park.
Khalid Al Qassimi and Chris Patterson finished the first leg twelfth overall in the third DS3 WRC entered by the Citroën Total Abu Dhabi World Rally Team. Rally di Sardegna began on Thursday evening on the tarmac roads in the centre of Cagliari. The Citroën Total Abu Dhabi World Rally Team crews lined up at the start in front of a passionate crowd. After a short but spectacular first stage, the WRC bandwagon returned overnight to Alghero, two hundred kilometres to the north.
The rally resumed late this morning, this time on gravel. Despite being one of the first on the road and therefore having to sweep loose gravel and sand off the racing line, Mads Østberg and Kris Meeke managed to fight with the frontrunners.
And when conditions were more favourable, the Norwegian produced a fine performance to set the fastest time on Coiluna-Crastazza (SS4). Mads continued his progress, grabbing second place in the overall standings as the crews stopped for the remote service in Buddusò. He ended the day in third position, in the middle of a four-way battle for the lead.
Fifth at the start of the day, Kris Meeke was forced to retire in the afternoon with an electrical problem. Making steady progress throughout the leg, Khalid Al Qassimi headed back to Alghero tonight in twelfth overall, regularly finishing close to the top 10.
In the WRC2 category, Sébastien Chardonnet and Thibault De la Haye were on the pace throughout the day in their Citroën DS3 R5. The crew produced a focused and committed performance to end this first day on gravel in fifth place in their category.
Saturday’s leg features just four stages. The crews set off from Alghero at 6.30am for a day in which they will cover a total of 800 kilometres, with 156.8kms of timed stages. After SS13, the competitors will drive their cars into parc ferme at 10.05pm.
QUOTE, UNQUOTEMads Østberg: “We knew that the first few stages would be difficult. We were fairly cautious to make sure we avoided making any mistakes on the more uneven sections. The other stages went better. I’m very happy to end the day in third position. It is still very tight at the front. It should be a good battle again tomorrow.”
Kris Meeke: “I felt very good in the car. We weren’t taking any risks and the times were pretty good. On SS4, we had a warning light for the battery. We didn’t have enough time before the start of the next stage to try and locate the problem. Unfortunately, we lost all power after five kilometres on SS5 so we had to stop. We should be okay to rejoin tomorrow.”
Khalid Al Qassimi: “It was a very tiring day. We tried to find the right balance. Our soft set-up was very effective in the slower sections. But in the quicker sections, the car moved sideways quite a lot. We are working with the engineers to find new solutions so we can improve the handling of the car. I think we are going to harden the set-up in order to obtain greater precision.”
Sébastien Chardonnet: “It was a very good day. We have learned a great deal. There were so many tricky sections but we didn’t have any problems. This is a very good sign for a debut in the Citroën DS3 R5 in the WRC and on gravel. I really enjoyed it today. The car worked really well and we’re only just beginning to get a glimpse of its potential.”
Marek Nawarecki (Citroën Racing Deputy Team Principal): ”Mads is ideally placed to meet his target, which is to finish on the podium. Kris was held up by an electrical problem on SS4 before having to retire on SS5. Fortunately, after analysis by our technical team, he’ll be able to rejoin tomorrow.”
HOW THE ACTION UNFOLDEDSS1 – Citta’ di Cagliari (1.3km) – The rally got underway in the streets of the Sardinian capital. On tarmac roads around the port of Cagliari, Mikko Hirvonen went fastest, ahead of Thierry Neuville and Sébastien Ogier. Kris Meeke grabbed the sixth fastest time, whilst Mads Østberg was tenth.
SS2 – Terranova Nord 1 (19.81km) – After the cars were transported back to Alghero overnight, the crews set off on the rally’s first gravel stage. On Terranova Nord, Thierry Neuville made the most of being down the running order to win the stage and grab the overall lead. Mads Østberg and Kris Meeke followed one another in seventh and eighth places.
SS3 – Terranova Sud 1 (12.4km) – Twelfth on the road, Juho Hänninen was next to go fastest, ahead of Thierry Neuville and Robert Kubica. Kris Meeke and Mads Østberg were once again bunched together, finishing inside the top 10.
SS4 – Coiluna-Crastazza 1 (20.29km) – This stage started over an hour late after Mikko Hirvonen’s car burst into flames on the road section before the stage. Unsurprisingly, he did not start SS4. Featuring different types of roads, Mads Østberg grabbed the stage win to move up to fourth overall. Kris Meeke finished the stage in tenth but reported a battery warning light on the dashboard.
SS5 – Loelle 1 (27.30km) – On the day’s longest stage, Jari-Matti Latvala went fastest, taking over as rally leader ahead of Mads Østberg and Martin Prokop. Kris Meeke stopped on the stage due to an electrical problem. A mechanical issue cost Thierry Neuville over twenty minutes. Hänninen retired after rolling his car. Khalid Al Qassimi set the twelfth fastest time to move up to twelfth overall at the remote service period in Buddusò.
SS6 – Terranova Nord 2 (19.81km) – On the second pass, sweeping was no longer a handicap for the first cars on the road. Latvala took the stage win, ahead of Ogier, Mikkelsen and Østberg.
SS7 – Terranova Sud 2 (12.4km) – Jari-Matti Latvala extended his lead at the front of the field by winning this seventh test. Sébastien Ogier and Andreas Mikkelsen closed on Mads Østberg, who remained second overall.
SS8 – Coiluna-Crastazza 2 (20.29km) – Ogier finished ahead of Latvala, Mikkelsen and Østberg. A four-way battle for the lead was developing at the front of the field.
SS9 – Loelle 2 (27.30km) – Despite finishing behind Latvala, who ended the leg in the overall lead, Sébastien Ogier snatched second overall from Mads Østberg on the day’s final stage. However, the Norwegian held off his fellow countryman Andreas Mikkelsen to hold onto the final podium spot.
STANDINGS AFTER DAY 11. Jari-Matti Latvala / Miikka Anttila (Volkswagen Polo R WRC) 1:49:09.52. Sébastien Ogier / Julien Ingrassia (Volkswagen Polo R WRC) +22.43. Mads Østberg / Jonas Andersson (Citroën DS3 WRC) +33.74. Andreas Mikkelsen / Ola Floene (Volkswagen Polo R WRC) +37.75. Robert Kubica / Maciej Szczepaniak (Ford Fiesta RS WRC) +56.96. Elfyn Evans / Daniel Barritt (Ford Fiesta RS WRC) +1:19.37. Martin Prokop / Jan Tomanek (Ford Fiesta RS WRC) +1:29.08. Henning Solberg / Ilka Minor (Ford Fiesta RS WRC) +1:36.99. Yazeed Al Rahji / Michael Orr (Ford Fiesta RRC) +5:15.810. Nasser Al-Attiyah / Giovanni Bernacchini (Ford Fiesta RRC) +5:19.9…12. Khalid Al Qassimi / Chris Patterson (Citroën DS3 WRC) +5:40.5…
Jari-Matti Latvala, 4 – Mads Østberg, Mikko Hirvonen, Thierry Neuville, Juho Hänninen and Sébastien Ogier, 1.
SS1: Mikko Hirvonen
SS2: Thierry Neuville
SS3: Juho Hänninen
SS4: Thierry Neuville
SS5 to SS9: Jari-Matti Latvala