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GP Week : Issue 47
>>WRCITALIA to achieve a record seventh successive world rally win, pulling away to yet another title – but it all went wrong. The World Champion made a I Time Control mistake and was then penalised for breaking the seat belt rules; his teammate Dani Sordo had endless turbo problems; two desperate attempts at clever tactics went wrong; and in the end, it was a corporate nightmare. The imposing collection of five C4 World Rally Cars was beaten by an eight-year old Xsara and Ford stormed through for its first World Rally win in over six months. Ford too had its moments of tactical distress but reacted instantly and brought Jari-Matti Latvala to his second championship victory. I n a week already charged with political drama, surrounding many aspects of the future World Rally Championship calendar, the Italian round of the series was action-packed. Latvala started with an ideal running position, seventh car on the road, and spent the first day building up a healthy lead. Having to start Day 2 first on the road, however, was a nightmare but he handled this with a maturity far beyond his 24 years, heading his teammate Mikko Hirvonen into the final day. On Day 3 Latvala again had to start first, but early still air led to heavy dust hanging in the air, giving him the chance to hold the lead to the finish. He waited anxiously to hear iif Ford would ask him to allow Hirvonen to win but the call didn’t come – there had already been too many failed tactical manouvres for comfort! The sandy tracks of Sardinia were dry, hot and dusty but there was some variety in the challenges they presented the drivers. Some faster sweeping stages favoured the Fords, others were more technical and gave T was one of the biggest turnarounds in rallying memory. The all conquering Citroen team arrived hoping advantage to the Citroens. Loeb, however, was the favourite, the Italian press nicknaming him The Cannibal (who devours his rivals). But this was not the happy confident Loeb to which we are accustomed, though there was one shining moment which will be remembered for ever. He punctured and changed the wheel beside the stage in 70 seconds, but even that remarkable effort was clouded when the FIA officials noticed that his co-driver, Daniel Elena, had his seat belts unconnected for a while. This led to a two-minute penalty, which caused the duo to finish off the podium. The tenacity of Petter Solberg in his privately-run eight year- old Citroen Xsara WRCs is already becoming a legend in the sport, and he is a massive thorn in the side of the official Citroen Team. For this rally he had a different car with revised cooling systems and mechanical differentials, and from start to finish he was always in the top four positions. His efforts again put the efforts of the Citroen and Ford customer teams in the shade. Among the Citroen Junior drivers Evgeniy Novikov finished a remarkable fifth overall while both Sebastien Ogier and Conrad Rautenbach were delayed by suspension problems. Rautenbach’s hope for Citroen Junior points were sacrificed when his entry was withdraw before the finish, allowing Sordo to gain one more point for the official team. Among Ford’s customer teams, 22 year-old Matthew Wilson’s sixth place was a steady result ahead of his Stobart teammate Henning Solberg in eighth place. The Focus of Munchi’s driver Federico Villagra was withdrawn on the second day as his co-driver Jorge Perez Companc was unwell. 21 year-old Mads Ostberg was impressive, finishing seventh in his private Subaru Impreza WRC despite a 10 minute penalty (under SuperRally rules) for missing a stage. 39