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Citroen Swept Away From Victory - (Global)

June 16th, 2008

The Turkish round of the World Rally Championship at the weekend (13-15 June 2008) saw the Ford team win with a masterful display of tactics by forcing Citroën’s Sébastien Loeb to sweep the road on the first two days of the event, leaving the Citroën duo to finish in third and fourth position and, in doing so, Loeb has dropped back to second place in the World Championship title race.

With no Turkish round in 2007, Loeb, as reigning World Champion lead the event out into the Turkish countryside on Friday and, as first on the road, had the dubious honour of sweeping the loose gravel off the stages, slowing the Citroën team down and letting the following Fords take the lead on stage two. Had the Ford drivers held on to their lead at the end of the day, then they would have been the road sweepers on day two, so on the last stage of the day, the Ford backed off by just enough – 1.0 and 1.1 seconds each – to hand the lead back to Loeb, forcing him into a second day of road cleaning activities.

The last day was shortened to just 67.56km of against-the-clock action. The two runs through the Olympos stage, 31.03km, of which the first 7km seven were new, served as the event's sting in the tail, while the Çamyuva test – run in reverse during the shakedown – had the makings of throwing up some surprises, despite only being short (5.5km).

Before starting the final day, the expressions and gestures betrayed the level of tension amongst the Citroën crews: Loeb was 34.3 seconds behind the overall leader and 18.1 seconds off second place. Sitting just 6.6 seconds off fourth place, Sordo also had a clear objective. The setting was set and there was nothing left but to go for it!

“As during Legs 1 and 2, we pushed as hard as possible, but it wasn't sufficient,” regretted Loeb. “Our set-up was good, our C4 WRC was very competitive and we didn't make any mistakes. Despite running third on the road, we failed to benefit from better conditions. Our rivals didn’t need to sweep the road in the same way we were forced to on the previous legs.”

“I cannot say I’m happy about finishing third and I'm no more pleased to have conceded the lead in the Drivers' Championship,” added Loeb. “For three days we have tried everything. We often exceeded our limits, using every bit of the car's potential and that of the Pirelli tyres which stood up well to the risk of punctures. Except maybe for New Zealand, we should no longer have to worry about the problem of 'road-sweeping' for any of the seven rallies that remain, and that can only be a good thing. We know that we're ready for what’s coming, the points differences in the two championships are minimal and there will doubtless be more fights to close these gaps. I can take a break in the knowledge that the rest of the season promises to be very exciting and we’ll soon be back in Finland!”

Highly motivated, Dani and Marc needed just one stage (SS17) to capture the 4th place they were targeting.

“I am very happy that we did it," smiled the young Spaniard. “We then set our times based on those of our opponent. At the end of this difficult weekend, this result is good for me. Our C4 was competitive and we put in some good stage performances. I forced myself to take care of my tyres and I think we made further progress in driving on the loose. Now I'm looking forward to the rest of the season and the prospect of the three asphalt
rallies to come!”

“Hot temperatures, the difficulty of the stages and the intensity of the event made this a really gruelling week-end for all members of the Citroen Sport team,” concluded Olivier Quesnel. “Seb and Daniel produced a perfect rally given the conditions. They gave it everything and should be proud of their third place. The result for Dani and Marc is also very good. They had to fight hard to get 4th place and they succeeded. We’ve now reached midseason. Seb is only three points behind in the Drivers’ Championship and Citroën is nine points off the lead in the Manufacturers' table. The gaps are therefore quite small. The remainder of the season promises to be extremely exciting.”

Rally statistics

Stage wins
Day 1: SS1: Sébastien Loeb (Citroën C4) – SS2: Urmo Aava (Citroën C4) – SS3: Jari-Matti Latvala (Ford Focus) – SS4 and SS5: Gigi Galli (Ford Focus) – SS6: JM Latvala – SS7: S. Loeb – SS8: G. Galli – SS9: Henning Solberg (Ford Focus).

Day 2: SS10 and SS11: Mikko Hirvonen (Ford Focus) – SS12: U. Aava (Citroën C4) – SS13: M. Hirvonen – SS14: JM Latvala – SS15: S. Loeb and M. Hirvonen – SS16: S. Loeb.

Day 3: SS17: U. Aava – SS18: S. Loeb – SS19: JM Latvala.

Best performers: S. Loeb, 5 stages win (1ex) – M. Hirvonen, 4 (1ex) – JM. Latvala, 4 – G. Galli,
3 – U. Aava, 3 – H. Solberg, 1.

Leaders: SS1: S. Loeb – SS2 to SS5: M. Hirvonen – SS6: JM. Latvala – SS7 to SS8: M. Hirvonen –
SS9 to SS10: S. Loeb – SS11: to SS19: M. Hirvonen.

Final leaderboard on 8th Rally of Turkey* (8/15)
1. M. Hirvonen/J. Lehtinen (Ford Focus) 4 h 42 min 07,1 s
2. JM. Latvala/M. Anttila (Ford Focus) + 7,9 s
3. S. Loeb/D. Elena (Citroën C4) + 25,7 s
4. D. Sordo/M. Martí (Citroën C4) + 2 min 25,6 s
5. H. Solberg/C. Menkerud (Ford Focus) + 2 min 33,7 s
6. P. Solberg/P. Mills (Subaru Impreza) + 2 min 48,2 s
7. M. Wilson/S. Martin (Ford Focus) + 4 min 24,2 s
8. C. Rautenbach/D. Senior (Citroën C4) + 7 min 46,7 s
9. F. Villagra/J. Perez-Companc (Ford Focus) + 9 min 34,1 s
10. B. Clark/P.Nagle (Ford Focus) + 14 min 48,8 s

FIA World rally Championship’s rankings ‘Manufacturers’ (round 8/15)*
1. Ford, 99 points – 2. Citroën-Total, 90 pts – 3. Subaru, 53 pts – 4. Stobart, 41 pts – 5. Munchi's,
19 pts – 6. Suzuki, 10 pts.

FIA World rally Championship’s rankings ‘Drivers’ (round 8/15)*
1. M. Hirvonen, 59 points – 2. S. Loeb, 56 pts – 3. JM Latvala, 34 pts – 4. C. Atkinson, 31 pts – 5.
D. Sordo, 30 pts – 6. P. Solberg, 20 pts – 7. G. Galli, 17 pts – 8. H. Solberg, 16 pts – 9. M. Wilson,
12 pts – 10. F. Villagra, 8 pts – 11. U. Aava, 6 pts – 12. C. Rautenbach, 6 pts – 13. F. Duval, 5
pts – 14. A. Mikkelsen, 4 pts – 15. JM. Cuoq, 2 pts – 16. T. Gardemeister, 2 pts – 17. A. Aigner, 1 pt –
18. PG. Andersson, 1 pt – 19. J. Hänninen, 1 pt – 20. S. Ogier, 1 pt .

*Subject to final publications of the results by the FIA. Results are subject to routine fuel analysis too.

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