After blowing hot on the first leg of Rally Italia Sardegna, the Citroën Total Abu Dhabi World Rally Team’s crews were treated to a cold shower on day two. Only Dani Sordo and Carlos del Barrio made it to the end, finishing in fourth overall. Ninth in the overall standings and winner of the WRC2 category, Robert Kubica scored his first ever WRC points, whilst Khalid Al-Qassimi opened his 2013 account by grabbing the final top 10 spot.
Similar in length to the first leg, day two featured four stages, each of which was run twice. After leaving the port of Olbia at seven o’clock sharp, the crews headed out into the Sardinian countryside under threatening skies.
The day got off to the best possible start for Mikko Hirvonen, who won his 250th stage in the World Rally Championship on SS9 (Monte Olia 1). However, the Finn’s joy was short lived, as he was forced to retire on the very next stage after he went off: “Right at the start of the Terranova stage, about a kilometre in, there was a small left-hand hairpin and I braked a little bit too late and the car slid off into a deep ditch. It wasn’t far, just one metre! Even with the many spectators who tried to help us, we were not able to get the car out and back onto the road. It was especially frustrating as the car wasn’t damaged at all. I’m really disappointed to have made a stupid mistake like that, because the car was working perfectly; the team has done a really great job this week and we were well placed to finish second.”
Dani Sordo therefore moved up to third place, although not in the circumstances he’d have liked. After spinning on Monti di Ala’ 1 (SS11), the Spaniard then lost around twenty seconds, dropping back a position in the overall standings: “The conditions were very difficult, with the hanging dust. I just came over a crest too quickly immediately before a hairpin. The engine stalled and I had trouble restarting the car. As Latvala wasn’t far behind, so he overtook me in the overall standings. I’m now under threat from Mikkelsen, so I’ll have to keep pushing to hold onto this position.”
Despite the small gap, Citroën Racing played it safe by fitting their cars with two spare tyres for the afternoon’s loop. Dani’s rival then went off on SS14. The no.3 DS3 WRC driver therefore had a clear run to the end: “I’m pleased to have avoided making any major mistakes in the rally, especially on a course as difficult as this one. We did what we could and our efforts have secured a few points for the team. We mustn’t give up. We have to keep working to ensure we have a more successful second half to the season.”
Khalid Al-Qassimi and Scott Martin enjoyed a sensible race to bring home the Abu Dhabi Citroën Total World Rally Team’s DS3 WRC in tenth position overall. The Emirati driver thus scored his first point in 2013: “Most of all, I’m pleased to have made it to the end without making any mistakes. After the Acropolis Rally, I really wanted to rebuild my confidence by taking my time. So I have achieved that goal.”
“Although recent rounds have given us real reasons to be pleased, my feelings are more mixed after this rally,” admitted Yves Matton, Citroën Racing Team Principal. “Apart from the result of our works crews, I take heart from the maturity shown by Robert Kubica. His second consecutive win in WRC2 shows that he has all the qualities to become one of the best among the current crop of rally drivers, and we are going to keep working with him to achieve just that.”