Østberg pleased to make it to the end of a day like today
Rally Italia Sardegna
— At the end of a very difficult opening leg, Mads Østberg and Jonas Andersson hold fifth place overall at Rally Italia Sardegna. Khalid Al Qassimi and Chris Patterson concluded the day in 16th.
— Kris Meeke and Paul Nagle’s progress was brought to a halt on SS2 after they went off.
— Tomorrow, the DS 3 WRCs will tackle the longest leg in the WRC since 2002: over fifteen hours of racing and some 212km of timed stages await them!
The rally got underway on Thursday evening with a super special stage held around the port of Cagliari. The Citroën Racing crews took no risks on this opening test, after which the cars spent the night on parc ferme.
The race resumed at the crack of dawn this morning, starting with the longest stage of the day! The heavy storms that had passed overnight had left the gravel roads especially slippery. With their Michelin LTX Force H4 (hard) tyres, the DS 3 WRC drivers didn’t have the best option compared with those that had opted for a mix of hard and soft compounds.
Kris Meeke’s day was cut short after just eight kilometres. He ran too wide on a blind corner and hit the outside of the road, breaking the left rear suspension of his DS 3 WRC. As the car can be repaired, the Northern Irishman is expected to rejoin the race tomorrow under Rally2 regulations but will have the unenviable task of running first on the road and sweeping the loose gravel off the racing line. Forced to contest the stage with the engine in ‘liaison’ mode, Khalid Al-Qassimi lost over two minutes.
From that point onwards, the hopes of the Citroën Total Abu Dhabi World Rally Team rested solely with Mads Østberg and Jonas Andersson. The Norwegian driver and his Swedish co-driver gradually got into the race, but lost contact with the leaders on SS4. Under the impression he had picked up a puncture after clipping an embankment, Mads adopted a more measured pace before then losing further time when held up in the dust kicked up by Mikkelsen, who was slowed by a broken suspension.
After service in Alghero, Mads and Jonas set off again with a positive, fighting spirit. They refused to give up and gradually managed to make up ground on their rivals. In the last two stages of the day, they gained three positions to end the day in the top 5 of the overall standings.
Mads Østberg: “I’m pleased to make it to the end of a day like today. I think my DS 3 WRC is pleased to be in service and getting some love from the mechanics! The start of the day was difficult because my set-up wasn’t totally suited to the road conditions. We made some significant improvements during the midday service and I think we learned a lot today. On the second runs, I felt that we had a good rhythm, but the times didn’t necessarily reflect that. We’ll have to look and see what might have been happening. For tomorrow, we have already worked out our plan of attack and I hope that will help us to keep improving.”
Kris Meeke: ”We knew that the first stage would be difficult. With the storms overnight, there were quite a few damp patches and it was very slippery. I didn’t have a good feeling. I made a first mistake, but got away with that one. I tried to concentrate more to find the right pace. But then we came over a blind crest into a corner and I ran wide, hitting the embankment on the outside of the bend as we exited. The suspension gave way and we had to call it a day. After two good steps forward in Argentina and Portugal, it’s a shame to be out of the race so quickly. It means we just need to keep working and that’s what we’ll endeavour to do tomorrow.”
Khalid Al Qassimi: “Today has been a very tough day for me, with a whole series of problems which are difficult to sum up! To look at things positively, I would say that the afternoon loop was a little bit easier to manage. At the end of the day, we’re still in the race and that’s the most important thing. I hope things will go more smoothly tomorrow but I know that we have a long day’s rallying ahead of us…”
HOW THE ACTION UNFOLDED
SS1 – Citta’ di Cagliari (2.50km) – On one of those stages where there is more to lose than gain, Mads Østberg and Kris Meeke took no risks. Khalid Al-Qassimi lost a few seconds after clipping a wall on the first corner whilst Martin Prokop surprised everyone in setting the fastest time!
SS2 – Grighine Sud 1 (26.31km) – After heavy rainfall overnight, Friday’s first stage was still wet in places. Kris was forced to retire 8km into the stage after he went off, breaking the left-rear suspension of his DS 3 WRC. On hard tyres, Mads conceded 22s to stage-winner Hayden Paddon. Khalid dropped close to two minutes due to a lack of engine power.
SS3 – Grighine Nord 1 (18.34km) – Taking full advantage of his favourable starting position, Hayden Paddon claimed another stage win. Sixth-fastest, 15.4s behind the New-Zealander, Mads Østberg gained a position to move into eighth overall.
SS4 – Montiferru 1 (14.41km) – Mads Østberg lost 45 seconds on the leaders after mistakenly believing he had a puncture following a minor impact and slowing his pace, and then getting held up by Mikkelsen. Khalid Al-Qassimi picked up a puncture. Meanwhile, Paddon increased his lead with a third consecutive stage win.
SS5 – Sagama 1 (2.58km) – No further drama on this short stage just before the cars returned to the Alghero service park. Ogier set the fastest time. Mads Østberg remained eighth overall, whilst Khalid Al Qassimi was 25th. On their first morning of racing in the DS 3 RRC, Stéphane Lefebvre and Stéphane Prévot held 8th place in the WRC2.
SS6 – Sagama 2 (2.58km) – It was Jari-Matti Latvala’s turn to claim a stage win. Mads finished fifth fastest as he began to reel in Martin Prokop.
SS7 – Sinis – Mont’E Prama (14.08km) – The stage win was claimed by Ott Tänak, ahead of Hayden Paddon who extended his overall lead. Fifth fastest again despite his position in the runner order, Østberg moved to with 10s of seventh place.
SS8 – Grighine Sud 2 (22.45km) – Jari-Matti Latvala won the stage but was unable to make significant inroads into Paddon’s lead. Østberg continue to make up ground on Prokop. In the WRC2, Stéphane Lefebvre was forced to retire after rolling his car.
SS9 – Grighine Nord 2 (18.34km) – Jari-Matti Latvala picked up a puncture, losing second place to Sébastien Ogier, who won the stage. Mads Østberg was fourth fastest, enabling him to move ahead of Martin Prokop into seventh. Thierry Neuville was only three seconds ahead in sixth…
SS10 – Montiferru 2 (14.41km) – Separated by 1.2 seconds, Jari-Matti Latvala and Sébastien Ogier closed right up on Hayden Paddon. Mads Østberg gained two further positions as he passed Dani Sordo and Thierry Neuville.
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