CITROËN TOTAL ABU DHABI WRT JUST OUTSIDE TOP FIVE
Although the Citroën Total Abu Dhabi WRT crews were all hampered by their positions in the running order today, Kris Meeke and Paul Nagle unfortunately going off in a heavy crash, Mads Østberg – Torstein Eriksen and Craig Breen – Scott Martin diligently stuck to the task in hand and ended the day in sixth and seventh positions respectively, adding to their experience on the way.
Faced with the grim prospect of acting as road-sweepers on the rally's longest leg, the Citroën Total Abu Dhabi WRT crews were expecting a tough time of it on today's second full day of racing. Following their misfortunes yesterday, Craig Breen, Kris Meeke and Mads Østberg were running first, second and third on the road respectively and therefore found themselves sweeping the fine layer of sandy, loose gravel on the surface, instead of seeing their tyres bite into the hard ground beneath.
This exercise, which can prove educational, involves never veering off the racing line, otherwise you almost certainly lose control, and sticking to the line can prove very costly time-wise. However, Mads Østberg and Craig Breen made the best of the conditions encountered to make it to the end of the leg in sixth and seventh overall, despite a brief off (SS14) for Mads, who was caught off guard by a shower.
Kris Meeke and Paul Nagle were also sticking to their plan when they turned slightly late into a fast left-hand corner and went off the road, rolling into the trees. Taken to hospital for precautionary checks, the British driver was discharged a few hours later just with a few bruises, ready to bounce back at the next event, Rally Italia Sardegna.
Although tomorrow's final leg only features a competitive distance of 51.53km (five stages), it includes two runs on the famous Fafe stage, where thousands of spectators are expected to cheer on the crews, especially at the huge jump just before the finish.
WHAT THEY SAID
Pierre Budar, Citroën Racing Team Principal
"Obviously, it's disappointing for us to see Kris and Paul go off the road, but we are above all relieved that they have escaped more or less unscathed. As regards Mads and Craig, they did their best given their road positions, whilst also learning and acquiring information that will be useful to us in the future."
"I turned into a fast left-hand corner a little bit late, missed my line and got onto the loose gravel on the outside of the corner and lost control of the car. Obviously, I'm sorry for the whole team, who clearly deserved better. I'm really very grateful that they built such a strong car. It was my mistake, of course, so I'll take it on the chin. But the feeling in my C3 WRC was so good here in Portugal that I can't help but take the positives away from this weekend."
"It was a difficult day for us, with a huge amount of cleaning with the dry and sandy ground. It hasn’t rained properly here for a while! But it’s the kind of experience that you have to get in order to fight with the very best one day and I prefer to focus on the very good feeling that I had driving my C3 WRC."
"The morning went well for us. I felt full of confidence in my C3 WRC and the times were pretty decent given our position in the running order. Since we weren't in a close fight for position with anyone, we decided to do some set-up tests this afternoon to try and keep improving with the car. We probably pushed things a bit too far, but that's part and parcel of the learning process."
STANDINGS AFTER DAY 2
- Neuville / Gilsoul (Hyundai i20 WRC) 3:16:30.0
- Evans / Barritt (Ford Fiesta WRC) + 39.8
- Sordo / Del Barrio (Hyundai i20 WRC) + 57.2
- Suninen / Markkula (Ford Fiesta WRC) + 1:01.9
- Lappi / Ferm (Toyota Yaris WRC) + 1:13.0
- Ostberg / Eriksen (Citroën C3 WRC) + 3:14.1
- Breen / Martin (Citroën C3 WRC) ) + 4:53.1