Tue 11 Jul 2023

OTD: Citroën domination in Bulgaria

Locking out the top four positions in a WRC round is a rare achievement in the sport’s modern era. Before 2022, that feat had been achieved just once in the 29 years previous, and it happened on this day (11 July) at Rally Bulgaria 2010.

If we rewind the clock 13 years, we find ourselves in a very different era of the WRC. Sébastien Loeb, now a nine-time world champion and semi-retired, had only secured six titles at that point while eight-time titleholder Sébastien Ogier had just claimed his maiden win at the previous round in Portugal.

Feeling old yet? Here’s something to add to that sentiment: current WRC champion Kalle Rovanperä was just nine at the time.

Bulgaria presented an all-new challenge for the WRC’s leading stars but, despite its one-off appearance on the calendar, it failed to disrupt the championship’s hierarchy.

Loeb showcased his dominance from the outset, winning all four stages on Friday to establish a substantial lead of nearly half a minute. It was an advantage he’d go on to skilfully manage in deteriorating weather conditions, eventually securing his 58th career victory ahead of fellow Citroën driver Dani Sordo.

Privateer Petter Solberg, also driving a C4 and paired with new co-driver Chris Patterson for the first time, trailed Sordo by a mere 6.8sec to claim third. Meanwhile, a young and promising Ogier overcame a brief excursion on day one to bring up the rear of a remarkable 1-2-3-4 finish for the French manufacturer, reminiscent of Toyota's achievement at the 1993 Safari Rally with Juha Kankkunen, Markku Alén, Ian Duncan, and Yasuhiro Iwase.

That feat has, of course, now been replicated - again by Toyota - in the previous two Safari Rally Kenya editions.

Ford drivers Mikko Hirvonen and Jari-Matti Latvala struggled for pace on the asphalt special stages and finished a lowly fifth and sixth overall respectively. Swede Per-Gunnar Anderson was seventh in a Stobart Ford-entered Focus RS, shading privateer Frigyes Turán who was driving a Peugeot 307 World Rally Car.

Further down the leaderboard, Thierry Neuville - aged 22 at the time - won the Junior WRC category whilst also finishing an impressive 12th overall in a Citroën C2 S1600.

Starts: Thursday, July 18, 2024 at 4:31:00 AM
Starts: Friday, July 26, 2024 at 7:00:00 AM
Starts: Saturday, July 27, 2024 at 6:00:00 AM