17 May 08
Sebastien Loeb kept it neat and tidy through Saturday’s six stages of Rally d’Italia - Sardegna to bring his Citroen C4 WRC back to Olbia with an overall lead of 29.4 seconds.
Running as first car through each of the day’s stages Loeb reported no major problems at all and said his leading margin was about right to offset the disadvantage of running as first car again through Sunday’s final five stages.
“A 30-second head start is not so bad, it’s what I wanted to have - although it’s probably the minimum,” said Loeb. “We tried hard and did lose some time in the gravel but the car is feeling good so we’ll have to see what happens tomorrow. Hopefully the stages won’t be too loose and gravely.”
The fastest driver through each of Saturday’s stages, however, was Jari-Matti Latvala, who made up five places on the overall leader board to end the day joint second - tied with his BP-Ford team-mate Mikko Hirvonen.
Sunday’s road positions were determined by comparing the pair’s results on the first stage of the rally - giving Latvala the dubious honour of tackling the stages before his team-mate. “I didn’t have any tactics today, I just tried to go as fast as I could,” said Latvala. “I’m a little bit disappointed about the last one (SS12) because I was over driving, going a bit wide here and there, but it’s a new day tomorrow. Unfortunately running second on the road is a little bit bad but okay I’m not going to worry about it. I just hope I can catch Loeb!”
Hirvonen, meanwhile, was looking forward to having a bit of an edge over Latvala. “It’s going to be a big fight tomorrow I can tell you,” said Hirvonen. “The good thing for me is third place on the road - I’m happy about that.”
Delighting his legions of Italian fans, Gigi Galli moved up from seventh to fourth after a trouble-free day at the wheel of his Stobart Ford Focus. “I was a bit scared to keep the right pace but we did it,” said Galli. “I know I take a little time to warm up but it’s been a good day - just one spin on the long stage in the morning. I’ll try and keep it under control tomorrow but it won’t be easy. We will try and keep maximum concentration.”
Having started the day second, Citroen’s Dani Sordo finished fifth and struggled to explain why. “The feeling in the car is good and I can’t really understand where the time is going,” he said. “Yes, there was a lot of road cleaning in the morning - and in the afternoon too - but it didn’t seem to affect Sebastien. Tomorrow I’ll try to catch Galli.”
After podium finishes on the last three WRC rounds, Subaru’s Chris Atkinson is sixth. “It’s been difficult but I’ve pushed hard all day,” he said. “There have been no specific problems to report, no incidents. I think I’ve been driving really well, and normally I wouldn’t expect to still be a second a kilometre off the pace!”
Henning Solberg is seventh for the Munchi’s Ford team and described his day as ‘steady and solid’ while Estonian Urmo Aava is eighth in his privately entered Citroen C4 WRC. “It’s been a normal, up and down sort of day,” said Aava. “I have to learn the car and get into a comfortable pace. It’s easy to make a mistake in this car and disturb the rhythm. Tomorrow my plan is to focus on my own performance - I’m not thinking too much about the opposition.”
P-G Andersson was the leading Suzuki driver, in ninth place, while Petter Solberg brought his Subaru Impreza back inside the top ten after a good run on the final stage.