With four stage wins claimed by Stéphane Lefebvre and Gabin Moreau, who were leading one of the toughest rounds of the year when they were forced to retire, the Citroën C3 R5 once again showed its array of qualities on the Mediterranean island.
Rally Sardinia presented crews and cars alike with a tough challenge this weekend, in much the same way that the final warm-up matches for this summers’s football world cup provide players with a real test as the tournament approaches!High temperatures and incredibly demanding, dusty stages provide the drivers and cars with a very serious examination, and are usually especially hard on the tyres. This year, the level of difficulty was racked up even further by the localised storms that hit the island on the first day. However, building on a promising maiden outing on gravel in Portugal, Stéphane Lefebvre grabbed first place in the WRC2 class on the first proper stage (SS2). Although he then briefly relinquished the lead, a first stage win on Monte Baranta 1 (SS5) enabled him to close to within five seconds of the category leader, and he then moved to the top of the leaderboard at the start of Friday afternoon’s loop (SS6). The Citroën Racing works driver then drove home his advantage with two further stage wins (SS7 and SS9) to end the opening leg as class leader, 14.0s ahead of his nearest challenger. As sunny conditions returned on Saturday, Stéphane made a strong start, vigorously defending his lead when unfortunately he broke a suspension arm on the second stage of the day. He was forced to retire for the rest of the leg. After rejoining under Rally 2 rules on Sunday, he confirmed that he clearly has what it takes to win this event as he grabbed another stage win, his fourth of the weekend, amidst the intensive fight for the podium places. His first win in the C3 R5 is surely just around the corner! Equally competing on behalf of Citroën after winning the 2017 Ultimate Challenge, Simone Tempestini had a tough time in Sardinia. Unfortunately, he rolled on SS6 when running in ninth place in the WRC2, having earlier held sixth place in this highly competitive feeder category to the WRC.
WHAT THEY SAID
Pierre Budar, Citroën Racing Team Principal
“With the top speed shown on these incredibly rough stages, Stéphane showed just how much the C3 R5 has already improved and how the set-up has been fine-tuned since its debut outing on gravel in Portugal. We are now going to analyse in detail the issue with the suspension arm so that we can turn this undeniable potential into a maiden win in the WRC2 class, which seems very much in our grasp.”
“Our weekend had got off to a pretty good start, despite the difficult weather conditions, something we hadn’t encountered at all in testing. We were leading and driving intelligently since we were able to hold off the second-placed crews without taking too many risks, and then we had our problem. After rejoining under Rally 2 rules, I bagged another stage win on the only test where I really went for it. That gave me a total of four fastest times out of fourteen stages, which is a pretty useful return. I can’t wait to secure the C3 R5’s first win in the WRC2.”