Sardinia : CitroŽn / JWRC - Leg 1
With certain competitors suffering repeated punctures and with others falling foul to a variety of other incidents, the long-feared opening leg of the 2006 Rally d'Italia Sardegna lived every bit up to its reputation.
A good number
of JWRC runners have already fallen by the wayside during a day which has seen the best-placed CitroŽn C2 Super 1600 Ė the PRT car driven by privateers Aaron Burkart/Tanja Geilhausen Ė reach tonight's parc ferme in 4th place.
"It's been a tough day for our 'junior' runners," reflects CitroŽn Sport's Customer Competition Manager Yves Matton. "My anxiety before the start was grounded and today has been something of a lottery given that the regulations do not permit tyres equipped with run-flat systems to be used!"
Yves Matton's fear of punctures was effectively no mere intuition given the high number of them there have been today. The first crew to fall victim to the phenomenon was unfortunately Brice Tirabassi/Jacques- Julien Renucci who punctured on the very first stage, which meant they had to live with a handicap of 3 minutes with the event barely started.
"It blew any chance we might have had of finishing in a strong position this evening," comments Brice. "We knew that avoiding punctures was always going to be vital here, but I really couldn't do anything about it.
I frankly didn't see anything coming!"
It's been a day to forget for the CitroŽn driver who went on to pick up three punctures in all in the course of the leg's six stages. But although the JWRC winner in Corsica consequently figures in a modest 9th place this evening, he promises to give it his very best shot tomorrow in his bid to move up into a points-scoring position.
This gravel round of the 2006 Junior World Rally Championship is new for Julien Pressac and his co-driver Gilles De Turckheim in their PH Sport-run CitroŽn C2 Super 1600 which tonight sits in 6th place. It wasn't by any means easy for the CitroŽn driver, yet he managed to survive the day without picking up a single puncture and he is globally pleased with his performance so far.
"My main objective was to avoid punctures and keep clear of the many traps here. We succeeded in doing that and tomorrow I will be looking to up my pace. It's a shame we weren't able to go any quicker today, especially second time through the stages, but both times we found ourselves caught in the dust thrown up by the car in front of us."
Martin Prokop and Jan TomŠnek also suffered two punctures today with their Jipocar Racing-tendered CitroŽn C2 Super 1600. The Czech pair is this evening 7th in the JWRC classification after spending the majority of the day inside the top- five.
Some 200km of competitive action remain until Sunday's finish which means there is every chance there could still be some major upsets in the 'junior' ranks. And with four CitroŽn C2 Super 1600 drivers sitting inside the provisional top-ten this evening, there is still very much everything to play for!
Press release Citroen