Sardinia: Citroen Sport - Finish
The 2007 Rally d'Italia Sardegna ended today with the third and final leg which saw Dani Sordo, Marc MartŪ and their CitroŽn C4 WRC secure an excellent third place. Overnight leaders Sebastien Loeb
and Daniel Elena were eliminated, however,
when they hit a rock on today's opening test.
The two loops of three stages that made up the new-look final day of the Italian round included just one mid-morning regroup in Arzachena. The stages themselves were very narrow with very little grip, while hanging dust and the omnipresent boulders that lined the roads ensured that today's run was rife with potential pitfalls.
And one of the victims turned out to be Sebastien Loeb
who clouted one of the aforementioned rocks on SS13.
"I had difficulty finding the ideal pace from the very start," he relates. "I felt that I wasn't driving well and I had to push myself. It was starting to get a little better, but about halfway into the stage, on a fast portion which I had noted a little too optimistically, I hit the crest a little too fast and the car went light. I was no longer on the ideal line for the following right-hander and I had a wheel slightly on the verge. I tried to bring the car back in line but then I hit a big rock with my front left wheel. I tried to continue but the wheel ended up buckling underneath the car. I clearly wasn't going any further, so I parked up," Seb explained.
"Ever since the beginning of the weekend, it has been difficult to find the ideal pace for these stages. My error came at the worst possible moment because our lead over Marcus GrŲnholm should have enabled us to control from in front. It just goes to show that winning is never easy and that we are always very close to the limit. We still have every chance in the championship, but it won't be easy. The season reaches its halfway point after the Acropolis Rally in a fortnight's time and it will be up to us to reverse the trend," he added.
Ever since Friday's start, Guy Frťquelin has repeatedly stressed how tough the Sardinian round is. "There are so many hazards on the stages and the most treacherous of them are no doubt the rocks that line the stages."
Yesterday evening again, the CitroŽn Sport boss reiterated his message: "Even though Sťbastien and Daniel have a cushion of 36.5s over the driver in 2nd place, this event is far from over. All the stages of the final leg are new and particularly complex. We must continue to be extremely cautious."
His words were still resounding this morning when news of Seb's accident came through. "I know what I am saying when I say that an event is never until the finish line has been crossed! This incident came at a moment when Seb wasn't even pushing; that's the most frustrating thing about it. But that's rallying and anything can always happen, even to the best of them. That doesn't mean that we need to alter the way we operate though. The points differences are not insurmountable in either championship but it's true that our task won't be easy. It will be up to us not to make any mistakes on the events still to come and Dani's performance here gives us every reason to be hopeful. He deserved to finish on the podium on this event which called for a combination of spirit and a cool head."
Dani Sordo, Marc MartŪ and their Citroen C4 WRC
effectively came through today's first loop of stages well.
"They were short but really quite intense," commented Dani at the Arzachena regroup. "First of all we had to cope with dust on SS13, and I then had a little trouble adapting to the profile of the following stage; it was so different to what we had come across since the start. I drove much better over the final stage of the loop, but a small mistake prevented us from setting a good time."
Dani set out for the final group in 3rd position, 5.2s clear of his closest pursuer. He handled the situation perfectly and a fastest time on SS16 sealed his place on the podium.
"I am very happy with my weekend. I was a bit hesitant to begin with but I managed to find a pace that was both quick and safe. The work we did with the CitroŽn Sport guys on the set-up of my C4 really paid off and I am especially pleased to have scored this result for CitroŽn on gravel, a surface on which I still need to improve," concluded Dani.