ANDREAS MIKKELSEN GOES FOR POSITION
Day one of Rally Italia Sardegna was hard going for the Citroën Total Abu Dhabi World Rally Team. Only Andreas Mikkelsen and Anders Jæger managed to keep out of trouble: on their first day of competitive action in the Citroën C3 WRC, the Norwegians ended the opening leg in ninth place.
- Rally Sardegna kicked off on Thursday evening with the Ittiri super special stage. The cars then headed for Olbia where they spent the night in parc ferme.
- Today's first leg featured four stages, each contested twice, making a total competitive distance of 125.46km: Terranova (SS2/SS6), Monte Olia (SS3/SS7), Tula (SS4/SS8) and Tergu-Osilo (SS5/SS9).
- Guided by the running order and the rough nature of the stages, the drivers opted for varying combinations of Michelin LTX Force tyres. Meeke and Breen went with three hard and two soft tyres, whilst Mikkelsen chose to go with three softs and two hards.
- On SS2, Kris Meeke moved into the overall lead after winning the stage. Craig Breen held fifth place, whilst Andreas Mikkelsen was thirteenth.
- The following stage proved fatal for Craig Breen. He hit a rock after a heavy landing, which damaged the gearbox housing. The Irishman made it to the end of the stage despite an oil leak, but he did not get much further and had to retire on the road section.
- After briefly conceding the overall lead to Hänninen, Kris Meeke went back in front on SS4. And then everything changed when the no.7 C3 WRC rolled on the next stage. After losing almost seven minutes, the Northern Irishman made it back to the Alghero service park.
- However, when the car was examined by the Stewards, the roll cage was found to be damaged, meaning the team had no choice but to confirm Kris and Paul's rally was over.
- Eighth overall at the mid-leg service, Andreas Mikkelsen and Anders Jæger were therefore the sole remaining representatives of the Citroën Total Abu Dhabi WRT. For the second loop, they chose to go with six hard compound Michelin LTX Force tyres.
- Throughout the afternoon, Andreas lost time as he kept stalling on the hairpins. He slipped to ninth overall after being overtaken by Lappi on SS7, ending the day in the same position.
Yves Matton, Citroën Racing Team Principal: "It was a frustrating day all round, with only one C3 WRC left in the race by midday. For Andreas, the target was to get mileage in the car and that's exactly what he has done. After spending time getting to understand the car, he started to change the set-up so that it's better suited to his driving style. He needs more time, because his style is fairly different to that of Kris, for example. As has often been the case this season, we've paid a heavy price for Craig's minor error of judgement. It's an unfortunate incident related to his lack of experience, which will also make us study how we could make the car a bit more solid in this type of situation. As regards Kris, he said that he felt full of confidence and that he was controlling his pace. And yet a similar error to the one he made in Portugal has prevented him from meeting the targets that we had set."
Andreas Mikkelsen: "It wasn't an easy day. My aim was to keep learning about the Citroën C3 WRC. I have to take it gradually, step by step, before I can get back to playing with the leading guys! The car is different to drive compared to the ones I was used to driving and obviously, it takes a bit of time to adjust. We worked with the team to alter the set-up and adapt it to my driving style. The main thing is to have completed all the stages on this leg."
Kris Meeke: "First of all, I'm sorry for Citroën, for all the team and for our fans… We had made a good start to the rally, I was trying hard to not make any mistakes and keep it clean and tidy. But we touched a bank with the rear left wheel and it spat the car over immediately, and we rolled. We managed to get the car back on its wheels and to the end of the stage, but it was inevitable that we would have to retire once we saw that part of the roll cage was damaged. I'm trying my best at the moment, but it's simply not good enough."
Craig Breen: "There was a jump towards the end of SS3 and we landed heavily, hitting a rock that we hadn't seen or noted in recce. The impact on landing damaged the gearbox. We tried a temporary fix for the oil leak, but it wasn't enough to keep going. Tomorrow we'll be back in Rally2 with a good road position. We'll try and set some good stage times and score a few points for the Manufacturers' World Championship."
UNOFFICIAL STANDINGS AFTER DAY 1
1. Paddon / Kennard (Hyundai i20 WRC) 1:31:02.6
2. Neuville / Gilsoul (Hyundai i20 WRC) +8.2
3. Tanak / Jarveoja (Ford Fiesta WRC) +9.5
4. Latvala / Anttila (Toyota Yaris WRC) +9.8
5. Østberg / Floene (Ford Fiesta WRC) +14.7
6. Hänninen / Lindstrom (Toyota Yaris WRC) +38.0
7. Ogier / Ingrassia (Ford Fiesta WRC) +41.0
8. Lappi / Ferm (Toyota Yaris WRC) +1:05.3
9. Mikkelsen / Jaeger (Citroën C3 WRC) +1:57.9
10. Camilli / Veillas (Ford Fiesta R5) +4:08.0