CITROËN’S EFFORTS GO UNREWARDED
With Sébastien Ogier – Julien Ingrassia’s day brought to a premature end after they went off and Esapekka Lappi – Janne Ferm held up by a number of issues, Citroën Total World Rally Team experienced a very difficult opening leg on the Italian island.
Friday’s slow and technical stages, where average speeds barely reached 80kph, looked set to provide an extremely tough challenge for crews and cars alike, especially as high temperatures in Sardinia promised to add stifling heat to the equation.
Tyres were expected to be sorely tested in places on the dry, rough stages, meaning that a good strategy could prove decisive. Sébastien Ogier counted on his expertise in this area, attempting to make up for part of his substantial disadvantage of running first on the very loose Sardinian roads. After winning yesterday’s opening super special stage, Sébastien and Julien Ingrassia, his co-driver, inevitably conceded time today given the huge extent to which the roads clean, despite a smart tyre choice (3 Michelin hard tyres and 2 mediums) for the morning loop and pushing hard all the way. They were running ninth overall when they made a very rare mistake, hitting a large rock on the inside of a tight left-hand corner. They had no choice but to retire for the day. They will rejoin tomorrow under Rally 2 rules, looking to make use of the remaining stages as an in-competition test.
Meanwhile, Esapekka Lappi and Janne Ferm were gradually improving and up to sixth overall after SS3 when they were held up by a puncture (SS4). The Finns then tried to make up the ground lost, managing to claim a stage win on the next test. When the action resumed in the afternoon, their progress back up the leaderboard was slowed up by a sensor issue on SS6 and the cancellation of the next stage. However, they grabbed a third fastest time on SS8 and were then second on SS9, just a tenth off the pace. They ended the day eighth overall. Sadly, with relatively few cars ahead of them in tomorrow's running order, they will have to cope with having less grip than the crews they will be trying to catch.
Saturday will see the competitors tackle the weekend's longest leg, with a competitive distance of 142.42km and featuring in particular the two long stages of Monti di Ala’ (28.21km) and Monte Lerno (28.03km), held on smoother, faster roads.
Pierre Budar, Citroën Racing Team Principal
“Obviously, it’s been a bit of a disappointing day for us, with the early loss of Sébastien and Julien following their mistake, but clearly we can't hold it against them given how few mistakes they generally make. Once again, they were showing impressive fighting spirit to try and cope with the disadvantage of opening the road. They will now focus on running some tests, to try and gather precious information for future rallies. Esapekka and Janne also had an up-and-down day, but the most important thing is that they finished the day on a high note and showed how competitive the C3 WRC can be on these stages, when conditions allow.”
Sébastien Ogier, Citroën Total WRT driver
“The retirement was clearly my mistake. I just cut a little too much on a very tight left-hand corner, hit a big rock and broke the steering arm. I knew exactly where the rock was, as we had passed it three times on the shakedown. There’s a slight crest, a bit blind and perhaps I turned in slightly too early. We tried to do some makeshift repairs, but we couldn't manage and so we had no other option but to retire. There’s not very much for us to hope for from this weekend now. As one of the early runners, I don't think we have any chance of scoring five points in the Power Stage, given how loose and sandy the roads are, so we'll watch what our rivals do.”
Esapekka Lappi, Citroën Total WRT driver
“We had a bit of an up-and-down leg, what with my puncture this morning and the sensor issue that meant we had no engine boost, so we had trouble putting it all together. But we finished the day better than we started it. Unfortunately, on gravel, the opening leg is always fairly decisive and our day means that we won't have a good position in the running order tomorrow. We’ll have to rely more on endurance to have a chance of moving up the standings.”
STANDINGS AFTER DAY 1
- Sordo / Del Barrio (Hyundai i20 WRC) 1:36:01.5
- Suninen / Lehtinen (Ford Fiesta WRC) +10.8
- Tänak / Järveoja (Toyota Yaris WRC) +11.2
- Mikkelsen / Jaeger (Hyundai i20 WRC) +20.2
- Evans / Martin (Ford Fiesta WRC) +20.3
- Meeke / Marshall (Toyota Yaris WRC) +29.5
- Neuville / Gilsoul (Hyundai i20 WRC) +57.7
- Lappi / Ferm (Citroën C3 WRC) +1:03.5
- Hänninen / Tuominen (Toyota Yaris WRC) +2:38.0
media.citroenracing.comPhoto credit: @World
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CITROËN TOTAL WRT 2019 SEASON PRESS KIT:
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