MADS ØSTBERG NOW IN CONTENTION FOR FOURTH PLACE
Whilst Mads Østberg – Torstein Eriksen were engaged in a fiercely contested battle for the minor places, Craig Breen – Scott Martin – hampered by running second on the road – focused on adding to their experience whilst moving up into sixth position.
After yesterday's heavy rain, sunshine was back in the sky in Sardinia today. Although some sections remained damp, normal conditions returned for the most part on the day's seven stages on this, the rally's longest leg. Indeed, significant amounts of dust were kicked up as each car came through the stages, hanging in the air for long periods. This suggested that the roads would clean and that grip levels would gradually improve through the running order.
Running second on the road, Craig Breen had little hope therefore of challenging those further down the order. He nonetheless took advantage of the opportunity to increase his knowledge of an event that he was only contesting for the second time in a WRC. He ended the day having gained a place to move into sixth overall.
Slightly less hampered by his position in the running order (fourth), Mads Østberg was one of the day's frontrunners as he fought for fifth place, with just a few seconds between him and his direct rival. Although he initially extended his advantage over the sixth-placed driver from 3.2s to 5.5s (SS10), he was then overtaken and found himself trailing his rival by 4.9s at the end of the morning loop. However, the Norwegian refused to be beaten and closed to within just 2.1s of his rival by the end of the day. He managed this despite carrying extra weight, having deliberately played it safe by taking two spare tyres in the afternoon, which is invariably more of a hindrance on such narrow, twisty stages. The fact he still managed to close on his rival suggests that he will be a forced to be reckoned with on the final leg, especially as a retirement higher up the standings now means the fight is now for fourth place.
Sunday's final leg will see the crews tackle a competitive distance of just 42.04 kilometres (over four stages) but you can be sure it will be very hotly disputed once again…
WHAT THEY SAID
Pierre Budar, Citroën Racing Team Principal
"With his road position, Craig couldn't really hope to move up the standings, but he did his job by getting the C3 WRC back to service this evening intact and collecting useful information and experience for the future. As for Mads, he had an almighty scrap for fifth place and he really hung in there, despite the clear disadvantage of having deliberately taken an extra spare tyre compared with his rival for the second loop."
"Despite our poor road position, some of our times were fairly encouraging, but we then broke the anti-roll bar mounting and that slowed us down a bit in the ruts on the afternoon's two long stages."
"Although we played it safe this afternoon by taking two spares, we managed to stay right in the mix for a good final position, and I really enjoyed today when the conditions were closer to those you expect at this round. Tomorrow looks set to be another exciting and close fight, and I can't wait to get started!"
STANDINGS AFTER DAY 2
- Ogier / Ingrassia (Ford Fiesta WRC) 3:02:16.9
- Neuville / Gilsoul (Hyundai i20 WRC) +3.9
- Lappi / Ferm (Toyota Yaris WRC) + 54.2
- Paddon / Marshall (Hyundai i20 WRC) + 2:01.8
- Ostberg / Eriksen (Citroën C3 WRC) + 2:03.9
- Breen / Martin (Citroën C3 WRC) + 3:13.6
- Kopecky / Dresler (Skoda Fabia R5) + 10:41.4
- Tänak / Järveoja (Toyota Yaris WRC) + 12:27.4