Sardinia : BFGoodrich - Finish
Daniel Elena, who has called out the pacenotes for Sebastien Loeb
since 1998, can today celebrate a new outright record for the highest number of WRC wins for a co- driver, beating the existing score established by Carlos Sainz's former right-hand
man Luis Moya.
The Italian round saw Loeb and Elena (Citroën/BFGoodrich) claim their fifth consecutive win this year after early pacesetter Marcus Grönholm was sidelined on Saturday morning. The Finn's team-mate Ford/BFGoodrich Mikko Hirvonen (2 nd ) did however go on to ensure his first podium finish of the year, while 3 rd for Dani Sordo (Citroën/BFGoodrich) strengthens the Spaniard's grip on third place in the provisional Drivers' championship standings.
This weekend saw Monaco-born Daniel Elena, who has sat alongside Sebastien Loeb
for all of 114 rallies, collect the 25th victory of his career at world level, although in some ways his win could be considered somewhat fortunate inasmuch as Marcus Grönholm and Timo Rautiainen (Ford/BFGoodrich) looked at one point to be heading for their third success of the year.
The Finnish pair effectively profited from the first three stages of the first leg to pull out a healthy 40-second gap after just 64km of competitive action.
True, they did benefit from a clearer line swept clean by Loeb who was running first on the world, but Marcus visibly pulled out all the stops during the early part of the event as he romped ahead. “My set-up is good and the new evolution medium compound g-Force Gravel 9 is giving excellent grip. Everything's fine," commented Grönholm at the end of Day 1 which was marked by searing heat (with ground temperatures of up to 43°C) and very rough conditions second time through the stages.
The following day, however, his Ford was halted close to the finish of SS8 after he hit a half-buried rock in the middle of the track which resulted in an oil leak. You just couldn't avoid it, said Loeb who ran over the same rock but who was more fortunate than his rival. "It was in a braking zone for a hairpin. My Xsara bucked, but thankfully nothing was damaged." And with Grönholm no longer in the running, the provisional 2006 Drivers' championship leader was able to cruise home to his 25th WRC win which leaves him just one short of record-holder Carlos Sainz and level with Colin McRae.
Henning Solberg (Peugeot/BFGoodrich) was 3rd overall before hitting a tree on Saturday morning. That left Gigi Galli (Peugeot) and Dani Sordo to fight it out for third spot before the Italian was later sidelined by an overheating engine. It turned out to be a weekend to forget for Subaru when Petter Solberg and Chris Atkinson's troubles culminated in retirement just before the finish.
This year's Rally d'Italia-Sardegna, the first European gravel encounter of the year, effectively proved a challenge for many drivers, yet Mikko Hirvonen (2nd, Ford/BFGoodrich) and Dani Sordo (3rd, Citroën/BFGoodrich) both stood out by their first class performances.
Press release BFGoodrich