A Citroën, Loeb and Sordo shine on the Costa Daurada
The end of the 44th edition of the Rally Catalunya, round 12 of the 2008 World Rally Championship, put the finishing touches to Citroen Total's emphatic domination which produced a superb one-two finish, the team's third in a row, and also its third on the Spanish round. Sebastien Loeb/Daniel Elena led from flag to flag to extend their lead in the provisional Drivers' championship order, while team-mates Dani Sordo and Marc Marti were perfectly on the pace to secure second spot with their Citroen C4 WRC. The result gives Citroen a 27- point advantage in the Manufacturers' standings, a fitting way to mark the 40th anniversary celebrations of the French firm's partnership in motor sport with Total.
The final day's programme featured 93.88km of competitive action which took the form of two attempts at a loop of three stages totalling 46.94km. As announced by the Meteo France Sports technician, the sun was just peeking through as the two C4s pulled out of the Salou service park first thing this morning. It was much higher in the sky and far warmer when Sebastien Loeb/Daniel Elena and Dani Sordo/Marc Marti parked up their respective cars for the final time under the awnings of Citroen Sport's facilities where they were given a hero's welcome by everyone in the squad after clinching the one-two finish that never looked like escaping them all weekend.
"This is our third consecutive one-two of 2008, which is immensely satisfying," smiled Olivier Quesnel at the finish. "What I particularly appreciate about this result is the way it was obtained. Our two C4s were never dislodged from the top of the leaderboard and were remarkably reliable throughout, while the mechanics did an impeccable job tending to them over the three days. Sebastien and Daniel put in a perfect run, pulling clear initially and then controlling from in front. It was a polished performance, too, from Dani and Marc who superbly defended second spot. They were in complete control in relation to their rivals in third place. This is also a very positive outcome for Citroen in both championships, and exactly the sort of weekend I would love to see repeated in a week's time when we move on to Corsica."
The same sense of a job well done could be detected in the declaration of Sebastien Loeb: "It won't surprise anyone to learn that I am delighted with this win," he beamed after adding a fourth victory to his record on this event which takes his personal total to nine WRC wins in 2008 and 45 in total. "The Riudecanyes and Santa Marina stages we contested today were quite similar to those of the first two days, but the Serra d'Almos test was different from the others. It was narrow, the asphalt was in a fairly poor state and it was quite bumpy. We took special care not to pick up a puncture, just as we did all weekend, and that was one of the main concerns on this rally. In order to make the most of our Pirelli Pzero WRC Hard tyres, I had to adapt the way I drove to manage their rate of wear. But we didn't make any mistakes and our C4 WRC performed impeccably from start to finish, and that has taken us a step loser to both world titles, although there's still a long way to go…"
Yet again, Dani and Marc joined their team-mates on the podium in second place and were visibly equally thrilled with the result. "This is our third consecutive silver medal on our home round and the third time we have contributed to a one-two finish here for Citroen. I would obviously love to win this event one day, but I am happy with today's outcome," said Dani. "It was a superb weekend for us, and there was much less corner-cutting this time round compared with previous years. We profited from Friday's run to make some set-up changes to adapt the car to our tyres and I then fell into a quick but safe rhythm which enabled us to defend second spot. Our C4 was awesomely competitive all the way to the finish and monopolising the top two positions today is a great reward for everyone in the team. It has enabled Citroen to close in on the title and we will do all we can to reproduce the same result in Ajaccio next weekend!"
Day 1: Day 1: SS1, SS2, SS3, SS4, SS5, SS6: Sebastien Loeb (Citroen C4).
Day2: SS7, SS8 and SS9: S. Loeb – SS10: Mikko Hirvonen (Ford Focus) – SS11: S. Loeb – SS12: Francois Duval (Ford Focus).
Day3: SS13: F. Duval – SS14: S. Loeb – SS15: Dani Sordo (Citroen C4) – SS16, SS17 and SS18: M. Hirvonen.
Best performers: S. Loeb: 11 stages win – M. Hirvonen: 4 – F. Duval: 2 – D. Sordo: 1.
Leaders: SS1 to SS18: S. Loeb.
Final leaderboard on 44th RallyRACC Catalunya-Costa Daurada (12/15)
1. S. Loeb/D. Elena (Citroen C4) 3 h 21 min 17,4 s 2. D. Sordo/M. Marti (Citroen C4) + 24,9 s 3. M. Hirvonen/J. Lehtinen (Ford Focus) + 1 min 02,5 s 4. F. Duval/P. Pivato (Ford Focus) + 1 min 10,8 s 5. P. Solberg/P. Mills (Subaru Impreza) + 3 min 27,4 s 6. JM Latvala/M. Anttila (Ford Focus) + 4 min 03,8 s 7. C. Atkinson/S. Prevot (Subaru Impreza) + 4 min 04,9 s 8. A. Mikkelsen/O. Floene (Ford Focus) + 5 min 19,6 s 9. M. Wilson/S. Martin (Ford Focus) + 7 min 43,2 s 10. B. Tirabassi/F. Gordon (Subaru Impreza) + 9 min 05 s
FIA World rally Championship's rankings ‘Manufacturers' (round 12/15)*
1. Citroen-Total, 159 points – 2. Ford, 132 pts – 3. Subaru, 80 pts – 4. Stobart, 55 pts – 5. Munchi's, 22 pts – 6. Suzuki, 20 pts.
FIA World rally Championship's rankings ‘Drivers' (round 12/15)*
1. S. Loeb, 96 pts – 2. M. Hirvonen, 84 points – 3. D. Sordo, 59 pts – 4. C. Atkinson, 42 pts – 5. JM. Latvala, 37 pts – 6. P. Solberg, 36 pts – 7. H. Solberg, 22 pts – 8. G. Galli, 17 pts – 9. F. Duval, 16 – 10. M. Wilson, 12 pts – 11. U. Aava, 11 pts – 12. F. Villagra, 9 pts – 13. C. Rautenbach, 6 pts – 14. T. Gardemeister, 5 pts – 15. A. Mikkelsen, 5 pts – 16. PG. Andersson, 4 pts – 17. JM. Cuoq, 2 pts – 18. M. Rantanen, 2 pts – 19. A. Aigner, 1 pt – 20. J. Hanninen, 1 pt – 21. S. Ogier, 1 pt .