WRC Turkey: Loeb and Citroen again

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June 5, 2005 Citroen continued its crushing domination of the 2005 World Rally Championship at the weekend with Sébastien Loeb's fourth win in a row after his complete domination of the Turkish round of the championship in his Citroen Xsara at the weekend (3-5 June 2005). Citroen has now won three Rallies of Turkey, Loeb has extended his world championship lead and with Carlos Sainz being brought out of retirement to bolster the speed of the second car finishing in fourth place, Citroen's bid to retain its manufacturer's title is back on track as it moved to within four points of leader Peugeot (72 points).

"I couldn't have wished for better," said Citroen Team manager Guy Fréquelin at the finish. "We have obtained exactly the result we wanted. Seb, Carlos, Daniel and Marc all made full use of the potential of their cars which proved impeccablyreliable thanks to the outstanding work put in by the team. Carlos' come-back was complicated by the conditions and the weather but he didn't put a foot wrong. Amazing and worthy of the true champion we know him to be."

It is now hard to imagine that Sébastien Loeb was ever branded tarmac only specialist, with the talented French driver totally dominating yet another tough gravel round that saw all his rivals either fall by the wayside or running well behind him. At one point he had a lead of more than minute and despite a hard charging Solberg trying to make up for a poor tyre choice on the opening stages, Loeb ended the event with a lead of nearly a minute.

Four wins in a row… I'm clearly on a positive run at the moment!" said Loeb at the finish. "But I want to stress the importance of the team's contribution to this series of wins. They are more motivated than ever and continue not to make any mistakes. It was also a big pleasure to join forces with Carlos again. We picked up our association as though we had parted company the previous day. The silver fern the Maoris gave me in New Zealand? It's still in the car. A bit faded, but it's still there and it will stay there for the next rounds!"

Carlos Sainz also had a huge smile on his face as he was applauded at the finish: "I'm obviously delighted to be at the finish. It wasn't as straightforward as that to pull off my mission. I had to find the right pace to finish high up and score as many points as possible, while at the same time not making any mistakes despite the awful weather conditions. But we've done it! I am very happy for Seb after his impressive win. It's been a superb weekend for the whole team. Working with everyone again has been a big occasion and lived up every bit to my experience with Citroën as a whole."

While Loeb’s five wins for the year have him 12 points clear of Solberg at the head of the table, Subaru seemed happy with Solberg’s second place. "We come to every event to win, so we're never going to be satisfied finishing second,” said Subaru World Rally Team Principal David Lapworth, “but from a championship perspective it's eight solid points and that's a good result.”

“Petter's driven very well, it was a great performance from the team and we've stopped Sebastien extending his championship lead by more than two points. Looking ahead to Greece, I think we've shown after the last couple of days that we're in a strong position and can continue to put pressure on Sebastien."

Petter Solberg was also matter-of-fact: "The rally has actually worked very well for me and we've had a good two days. I took quite a lot of time out of Marcus yesterday and had a good feeling that I could do something similar today. We attacked quite hard on the first stage today, but on the second we just drove according to the splits. We managed to secure second place and I'm very pleased for Subaru and the team. Our pace was encouraging, but we still have to find a solution to challenge Sebastien all the time. It would have been good to have fought more closely with him, but that's how it is and we've done the best we can."

By finishing third and fifth in the Rally of Turkey, the Peugeot 307 WRC drivers Marcus Grönholm and Markko Märtin enabled Peugeot to retain the lead of the manufacturers’ championship but only just.

The two stages which made up the final leg of the Rally of Turkey decided the podium places and even though Grönholm set fastest time on the last stage, it was not enough to take second place from Subaru’s Petter Solberg – who was fastest by nearly 10 seconds on the penultimate stage.

Marcus Grönholm, Peugeot WRC, third: “I did my best to pass Petter today – I even removed the air conditioning unit from my car at service in order to save a bit of weight, but there was nothing more I could do. We were very close until the last 7 kilometres of SS17, then Petter did a very good time. Of course I was pushing, but my instructions were to get to the finish and make sure of scoring some points for Peugeot in the manufacturers championship. Luckily we were able to do that and Peugeot remains in the lead.”

Markko Märtin, Peugeot WRC, fifth: “This has been a tough rally for me and we have struggled to find complete confidence in the car. It was also difficult to judge the tyre choices, but for the most part I think we got it right. We still have a lot of work to do, but at least we have come away with some points which are vital for both championships. Today we did not take any risks and just made sure we got to the finish with no problems. There was not much to get excited about !”

Jean Pierre Nicolas, Peugeot WRC : “Looking at the result, it’s clear that we have limited the damage by keeping the lead of the manufacturers’ championship, but to be honest that is not enough. Speaking objectively, we did not show ourselves to be capable of winning. We will take clear stock of the situation, first with Pirelli but also with our car – as our Pirelli-equipped rivals were frequently quicker than us. This was particularly the case on on the very slippery sections, where our technical team needs to improve the 307WRC, which currently seems difficult to drive. Marcus Grönholm has driven a very good and intelligent rally, which proves once more the progress he has made as a driver. Markko Märtin has been once more a model of consistency, as has been the case since the start of the season.”

Isao Torii, Head of Mitsubishi Motor Sports: “Again we finished the rally and with one car in the points. I must say thank you to the whole team; everyone has shown how they can perform and demonstrated great potential. The drivers become more and more confident with the car each time and they showed speed and confirmed that we are ready for the next stage of our strategy, namely to challenge for podium positions. I am feeling very optimistic about the rest of the season.”

Gigi Galli, Mitsubishi WRC : “We took a steady pace today as there was no point to risk anything. Despite the disappointment yesterday, I have to say I am very happy with this rally. We made some good times and we are very close to having a great result. For me, that’s in two rallies time, then it’s my turn! We have some new solutions coming up, things we have already tested that I think will mean we can challenge and make the podium.”

Harri Rovanperä, Mitsubishi WRC: “It’s been a difficult rally which really ended for us on Friday. Since then we have been testing various things to see if we can find solutions for different situations. We have learned some stuff, but overall the rally has not been fantastic for us. Overall the tyres have been working very well, the wear was good and we can look forward to Greece with some optimism.”

Mario Fornaris, Mitsubishi WRC Technical Director: “We had a good performance from the car and Gigi made a great drive. Harri was unlucky, but all in all I think we must be happy. It is the first time we have shown that we can be in the top ranking and that is my memory from this event. Gigi was in the top five throughout and he had two best times; that is the making of a podium position. We couldn’t achieve it here because of a technical problem, but we have shown it is possible for the future.”

Toni Gardemeister, BP-Ford World Rally Team:"It's been a hard weekend. I've scored points which is good but I really wanted to finish ahead of Markko Märtin and I didn't. I've not been so happy with my performance. I like the roads here but I've not had a good feeling. I lost time yesterday with a puncture and that was my fault because I hit some stones. I was happier with the set-up of the car on the final day. I made the suspension stiffer and that felt good but then the grip wasn't as strong, so maybe if we change the set-up we need to look at different tyre options as well. The surface is different on the next round in Greece and I'm aiming for a good result there.”

Roman Kresta, BP-Ford World Rally Team: "I pushed hard on the opening stage, which had good grip. The last stage had a lot of loose gravel on the surface so I made sure I was careful. It's been a good weekend and I've now scored points on each of the last three rallies that shows good consistency. It has been hard to choose the right tyres with the constant weather changes, and it's especially difficult when the weather is so different on the recce than it is on the rally."

Anthony Warmbold, BP-Ford World Rally Team : "We've had our ups and downs. I lack experience in muddy conditions because I don't trust the grip. It's like driving on snow without studs. I struggled for confidence on the first day but yesterday and today have been much better."

Chris Atkinson, Subaru WRT: "I think we could have run at a good pace all weekend, but instead I've had to treat this rally as a test after a silly mistake. But, on the positive side, it's good to get more experience of the car on the stages. I'm always finding more things and now have a comfortable set up for these conditions. It's a bit frustrating, but I'm trying to learn as quickly as possible. I think we've got a good base set up for Greece, it's another new event for me, but I'm looking forward to it."

The Next Round

Round eight of the FIA World Rally Championship starts in three weeks time when crews travel to Greece for the Acropolis Rally. The last of a trio of hot and rough gravel rallies held in the Mediterranean, the event features similar terrain to that seen in Cyprus and Turkey. Suspension and dampers must cope with high-speed impacts in searing temperatures, while drivers regularly have to dodge huge boulders. Petter's momentous victory of 2004 demonstrated the strength of the Impreza in such conditions and few cars make it to the finish. Starting on Thursday 23 June with a Super Special round the Olympic Stadium in Athens, the event will conclude on Sunday 26 June. Rally HQ and service will be based in the port of Lamia, 200 kilometres west of Athens.

Rally of Turkey – Final Positions

1. Sébastien Loeb/Daniel Elena Citroën Xsara WRC 2. Petter Solberg/Phil Mills Subaru Impreza WRC 2005 3. Marcus Grönholm/Timo Rautiainen Peugeot 307 WRC 4. Carlos Sainz/Marc Marti Citroën Xsara WRC 5. Markko Märtin/Michael Park Peugeot 307 WRC 6. Toni Gardemeister/Jakke Honkanen Ford Focus RS WRC04 7. Roman Kresta/Jan Mozny Ford Focus RS WRC04 8. Gigi Galli/Guido D’Amore Mitsubishi Lancer WRC05 9. Antony Warmbold/Michael Orr Ford Focus RS WRC04 10. Harri Rovanperä/Risto Pietiläinen Mitsubishi Lancer WRC05

FIA World Rally Championship after round 7 - Manufacturers 1. Peugeot, 72 points - 2. Citroën, 68 pts - 3. Ford, 49pts - 4. Subaru, 46 pts - 5. Mitsubishi, 30 pts - 6. _koda, 8 pts.

FIA World Rally Championship after round 7 - Drivers 1. S. Loeb, 55 pts - 2. P. Solberg, 42 points - 3. M. Märtin, 38 pts - 4. M. Grönholm, 32 pts - 5. T. Gardemeister, 31 pts - 6. H. Rovanperä, 13 pts - 7. M. Stohl, 11 pts - 8. R. Kresta, 10 pts - 9. H. Solberg, 9 pts - 10. G. Panizzi, 7 pts - 11. F. Duval, 5 pts - 12. C. Sainz, 5 pts - 13. D. Carlsson, 4 pts - 14. A. Warmbold, 4 pts - 15. G. Galli, 4 pts - 16. Ch. Atkinson, 2 pts - 17. J. Pykälistö, 1 pt…

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