Loeb Wins in Sardinia

Loeb Wins in SardiniaFrom Citroen Press [ 01/05/2005 ].
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Sébastien Loeb dominated the Italian round of the World Rally Championship at the weekend (29 April - 1 May), guiding their Citroen Xsara to victory over Petter Solberg by nearly a minute and in the process taking over the lead in the World Rally Championship from the Subaru driver. Loeb's domination of the rally of Sardinia - he lead from stage three to the end of the event and scored twice as many stage wins as his nearest rival - was achieved through the reliability of his Citroen Xsara, an excellent choice of tyres and a skilful and well paced drive from the Frenchman. Team mate François Duval managed to score manufacturers points despite a first-day roll off the track into the bush that left his Xsara on its side and minus a rear wheel. Following repairs and a re-start, he went on to finish in 11th place.

Despite his domination and entering the final day with nearly a minute's lead, it was not a done-deal for Loeb. The last leg had no service area visit during the day, so reliability was essential, as was an accident free day, and Solberg was on one of his infamous hard-charges, trying to make up lost time

"There was no wind and, like everyone else, I was hampered by the fairly thick cloud of dust thrown up by the preceding cars," said the reigning World Champion at the finish. "I therefore lifted each time I had to and pushed hard as soon as the conditions allowed. The car was perfect. In the following stages, I was careful not to make any mistakes while keeping a close eye on the times of my closest chaser, Petter Solberg. Winning back to back in New Zealand and here in Sardinia has put us back in the lead of the championship and promises some exciting battles to come!"

The privately-entered, Kronos Racing-run Citroen Xsaras both finished inside the top ten to the delight of their drivers. Juuso Pykälistö, eighth, scored the first Drivers' point of his career following a mature performance. Handicapped by a health problem before the start, Manfred Stohl had considered not even taking part. Despite a singe pass over the stages of Leg 2 in recce, he finished 10th overall after deciding to turn the event into full-scale test in preparation for Cyprus.

In the Junior World Rally Championship, Citroen again delivered the results and a special 22nd birthday present for Dani Sordo when he won his first world rally and equalled the record of his team mate Kris Meeke, who was victorious in the first 2005 JWRC round in Monaco.

Despite the fact that Kris Meeke went off the road on stage 11, he finished third on the Sardinian round. With these good team results, Kris and Dani take the two first positions in the Junior World rally Championship respectively.

This was the first gravel outing for the Citroen C2 Super 1600 and it delivered on the promise shown in the Rally of Portugal, when Sordo took the top spot on the podium, by gifting its drivers nine stage wins out of 16.

Following two disappointing results, the Citroen team is now back on track in its battle to hold on to the drivers' and manufacturers' World Rally Championship titles it won in 2004.

"We have won two rallies in a row, both in a straight fight and both in events in which we were somewhat dominated last year by Subaru," said a delighted Guy Fréquelin whose thoughts are already turned to the future. "Our win in New Zealand was a positive pointer for the fast gravel rallies to come, while our result here in Sardinia is also very promising since the heat and rough portions were a foretaste of what we are likely to come across in the next three rounds. Once again, the Xsara and our Michelin tyres formed a winning combination and Sébastien made the very most of their potential. My only regret is obviously the fact that we weren't able to capitalise on this in a more concrete manner in terms of the Manufacturers' championship. That said, I am pleased with the strong runs of the privately-entered Xsaras and I would also like to underline that, as in the Monte Carlo Rally, we scored a WRC-JWRC double this weekend."