INCREDIBLY DIFFICULT DRIVING CONDITIONS
Stéphane Lefebvre and Gabin Moreau made a strong start to the event but were then forced to rejoin under Rally 2 rules, opting from then on to use the exceptionally difficult conditions for a large-scale test session.
Contested on both gravel and tarmac, the final instalment of the C3 R5's 2018 programme looked set to provide a huge challenge. However, Stéphane Lefebvre, the brand's works driver in the WRC2, got off to a flying start in Spain. He set the second fastest time on the first proper stage (SS2), just three tenths adrift of the stage-winning time. Unfortunately, a loose stone damaged part of the suspension on the next speed test, forcing him to retire for the day. Stéphane's exit left Simone Tempestini, competing as a privateer, as Citroën's leading representative on day one, ending the leg in eighth place in the category. He was doing even better on Saturday's leg, negotiating the tarmac roads, which varied form damp and slippery to completely soaked. He had moved up to sixth place, just behind former WRC champion (2003) Petter Solberg – an indicator of how competitive the class was this weekend – when unfortunately he went off on the day's final proper stage. Meanwhile, Stéphane Lefebvre, who had rejoined under Rally 2 rules, impressed on the same stage as he grabbed the fourth fastest time. He was nonetheless more focused on fine-tuning the set-up of his car than looking for out-and-out speed. This was especially true since these sorts of conditions – with constant changes in the level of grip – had not been met thus far in testing. Whilst Stéphane gathered precious information for the future through to the end of the rally, ultimately finishing fifteenth in the WRC2, another private customer – Ole Christian Veiby – demonstrated just how easy it is to get to grips with the C3 R5 as he grabbed the fourth fastest time on Sunday's opening stage (SS15), just 2.3s off the stage-winning time. Equally required to rejoin under Rally 2 rules after a minor electrical issue, the Norwegian ended the weekend as the highest-placed C3 R5 driver, finishing ninth in the WRC2.
WHAT THEY SAID
Pierre Budar, Citroën Racing Team Principal
"Stéphane had made a good start and obviously, it's a shame that he then fell out of contention so quickly. He then helped us to work on a few interesting things. We still have some work to do and there are some issues where we need to dig a bit further if we want to get even better, but that was also the aim of this programme on the most demanding rallies in the world."
“Unfortunately, it’s been a frustrating weekend for us. After we had shown good pace on the opening stages on gravel, our performance was sadly brought to a premature end. From that point onwards, we decided to use the remaining stages on tarmac to try a few things out for the future, without taking any unnecessary risks given the really difficult driving conditions."