WRC2: C3 R5 shows pace

WRC2: C3 R5 shows paceFrom Citroen Press [ 20/05/2018 ].
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Stéphane Lefebvre and Gabin Moreau held the lead on eight of the twenty stages contested this weekend and equally claimed a stage win as they showed that the C3 R5 also has the potential to become the new benchmark in the category on gravel. Ultimately third overall in the WRC2 on the car's maiden outing on this surface, they went very close to doing even better…

As gravel is the surface on which most of the world rally championship is contested, this round was very important for Citroen in terms of its customer racing strategy. The brand can therefore take satisfaction this evening from having seen the C3 R5 - the new flagship model of its range - enjoy a successful debut on the demanding roads of Rally de Portugal, which caught out many other crews this weekend. After winning the first proper stage, the 26.73km-long SS2, works driver Stéphane Lefebvre confirmed that he meant business and he ended Friday's morning loop with the WRC2 class lead, 27.5s clear of his pursuers. The afternoon proved to be more difficult, however, with a puncture on SS5 resulting in damage to a brake hose on SS6, and the talented young Frenchman dropped back to third place.

Stéphane refused to be beaten, however, and his persistence was rewarded when he moved back into the overall lead on day two's opening stage. He then increased his lead to 49.4s over the second-placed driver by the end of Saturday morning's loop. But another puncture on SS14 then proved costly: the wheel locked, resulting in a broken transmission on Amarante, the longest stage of the rally (37.60km). Once again, Stéphane Lefebvre showed great strength of character and skill to hold onto third place. He even managed to finish the race in style. Determined not to give up, the 26 year-old Frenchman made up 31.3s on the category's second-placed driver on Sunday's leg, over a competitive distance of just 51.53km, ending up 17s shy of the runner-up spot. All of which suggests that he has already established a strong - and effective - bond with C3 R5!

WHAT THEY SAID

Pierre Budar, Citroën Racing Team Principal

"Obviously, we had been hoping for a slightly better outcome in terms of result, because we had the speed to aim higher. But there are several reasons to be pleased, not least the reliability of the car, which had no technical issues on its maiden outing on gravel. Stéphane picked up a stage win and he also held the category lead for several stages, so that shows that the C3 R5 is also well designed for this surface. In any case, I'm very pleased with the way in which Stéphane managed his race. It was a consistent and mature performance, and we are now going to keep working on improving and fine-tuning the set-up of the car."

Stéphane Lefebvre

"It was an especially difficult Rally de Portugal this year, particularly on Friday afternoon's loop, but the C3 R5 handled very well on its debut on this surface. It was important to rack up the miles on this first outing, so we didn't take any unnecessary risks. Unfortunately, however, we still had two punctures, without which we would have recorded an even better result. But the potential is definitely there and that augurs well for the future, with the planned fine-tuning of the set-up."

WRC2 results in Portugal:
1st - Pontus Tidemand S / Jonas Andersson S - Skoda Fabia R5 ; 4h03m57.4s
2nd - Lukasz Pieniazek PL / P. Mazur PL - Skoda Fabia R5 ; +2m06.5s
3rd - Stéphane Lefebvre F / Gabin Moreau F - Citroen C3 R5; +2m23,5s
4th - Pierre-Louis Loubet F / Vincent Landais F - Hyundai new gen. i20 R5 ; +3m10.5s
5th - Hiroki Arai J / Glenn MacNeall AUS - Ford Fiesta R5 ; +5m31.6s
6th - Juuso Nordgren FIN / Tapio Suominen FIN - Skoda Fabia R5 ; +5m41.1s