Defending World Rally Champions Citroen have increased their lead in the Manufacturers’ title race over rival team Ford, with both Xsaras appearing on the podium at the inaugural Supermag Rally Italia Sardinia (1-3 October).
Sébastien Loeb, points leader in the Drivers’ Championship, strengthened his position in the title battle, picking up eight points as runner-up in Sardinia, his tenth appearance on the podium this year. First out on the unchartered Sardinian gravel, Loeb set the fastest time on two rally stages and constantly decent drives on all others ensured he mostly finished in the top three.
“Just after the first stage, I said to myself that it will be difficult to beat Petter Solberg here. I went faster in some places but he always kept his lead. When Marcus Grönholm had some problems, I thought it wasn’t stupid to go for second place. And that’s what we’ve done, just before two events which should be favourable to us. Actually, it’s no secret that I would really like to win Corsica…”
Team mate Carlos Sainz finished third, his six points not only adding to Citroen’s tally, but enabling him to overtake Markko Martin to reclaim third spot in the overall Drivers’ Championship standings. Climbing onto the 94th podium of his career, ‘El Matador’ was also very pleased.
“This event was very difficult for engineers and technicians as we were driving on a new terrain. It was also very tricky for the drivers due to the very narrow stages and the rocks interspersing on the sides. Despite all that, the team has scored a fantastic result with two cars in the top three. On my side, I’m now lying third in the Drivers’ Championship and I will try to defend this position…”
The third leg was expected to be very difficult as it offered six special stages without any service in between. Once more, the Xsaras proved their excellent reliability on this occasion. Team boss Guy Fréquelin was extremely satisfied at the finish in Olbia.
“Both our Xsaras went through the whole event without any single problem. This technical reliability is also reinforced by the strength and the race craft of our drivers and co-drivers. The results here absolutely follow our plans and the same for our strategy in the Championship”.
Sébastien Loeb now only needs five points to become World Champion and Citroen seven points to give the Xsara its second crown, over this year’s three remaining events in Corsica, Spain and Australia.Published 4 October 2004