RALLY FINLAND LIVES UP TO ITS REPUTATION
Although they ultimately had to settle for a modest thirteenth position in the WRC2 after having to rejoin under Rally 2 rules early in the weekend, Stéphane Lefebvre and Gabin Moreau nonetheless set some promising times, showing the potential of the C3 R5 on this very atypical round. Equally forced to rejoin under Rally 2 after an off, Simone Tempestini and Sergiu Itu ended the weekend in ninth position in the category.
You often need several appearances in Finland in order to come to terms with all of its specific features, such is its unique character. And you have to admit that this year, the iconic summer rally once again lived up to its tough reputation. After running wide onto a bank as he exited a junction, Stéphane Lefebvre lost part of the rear axle on SS2, which meant he had to retire for the day and rejoin the race on Saturday under Rally 2 rules. From that point onwards, the talented 26 year-old Frenchman tried to get his bearings again and conduct a sort of full-scale test session as he gradually picked up the pace. He impressed with a sixth fastest time in the WRC2 on the second stage of the day (+ 6.2s over 14.90km), muscling in on a large contingent of unrelenting local drivers. He then upped his pace again to set the second fastest time, just 7.3s off the pace on the 24km-long Kakaristo stage. This stage is of course the new version of the legendary and formidable Ouninpohja test, and the Citroën driver's time once again demonstrated the qualities of the C3 R5 at an event where it was making its competitive debut. Stéphane Lefebvre thus continued to acquire information for the future, all the while recording several promising times, and reached the finish in thirteenth position in the WRC2 class. On his second rally in the C3 R5 after Sardinia, Simone Tempestini – winner of the 2017 Citroën Ultimate Challenge – felt increasingly confident on these ultra-fast roads, particularly in claiming a sixth fastest time on SS9, but unfortunately he went off on Saturday (SS14). Citroën's engineers and mechanics produced a minor miracle to repair his car, working until late on Saturday night, enabling him to return to action on Sunday and reach the finish in ninth place in the WRC2.
WHAT THEY SAID
Pierre Budar, Citroën Racing Team Principal
"Although we prepared well for the rally with three days of testing, there's just no substitute for competitive experience so we've learned some more things this weekend. We still have some fine-tuning to do on this type of surface, which is so specific. Having said that, when you look at the times, they are promising once again in terms of the performance of the car."
"Obviously, it's a shame that our weekend was dealt such a body blow from the outset, with having to rejoin under Rally 2 rules. From that point onwards, it was difficult to really go for it, even though I felt confident in the car. We still managed to produce some good times at some points, whilst also working on certain areas for the future."