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GP Week : Issue 90
CITROEN cars finished 1-2-3-4 in Bulgaria, the best example of rally dominance they have yet achieved, on a level not seen since the days of Toyota in the world championship 17 years ago. This highlighted the way the French cars are pulling well clear of their rivals at Ford, the deficit of performance of their cars made even worse by a spectacular tyre choice error on the second day. Fast-changing weather in the Rila Mountains challenged every team in their choice of fitting soft or hard compound tyres. Both teams made misjudgements, but nothing comforted Ford in their rally of despair. Hirvonen was driven to observe that the Fords, when on the correct tyres, were still slower than the Citroens on the wrong tyres! That bad. Citroen were not absolutely perfect, as a driving error by Kimi Raikkonen on Day 1 saw his car roll downhill into the trees, preventing a top five result. Kimi's car was rebuilt and he finished 11th overall. This was the first world championship rally run completely on asphalt roads for nine months, and after a lot of pressure from the teams, all the regular world championship drivers were entitled to run gravel note crews -- 'ouvreurs' as they used to be known. Their job was to warn about unexpected patches of water or patches sand on the stages, a major confidence- boosting measure. Their work was helpful, but limited, as the roads were closed to them an hour before the first competitive car was due. The times on the pre-event Shakedown test told the Ford chiefs everything they did not want to know -- that the five Citroens were going to be uncatchable. It was the second rally running that Citroen cars finished 1-2-3-4-5 in Shakedown. The tyre choice debacle on Saturday morning took away any hope that Ford could keep the red French cars in sight, the results sheets consistently showed the Ford cars were lined up behind the Citroens, with an extra embarrassment that the private driver Frigyes Turan in a six year old Peugeot 307WRC, the first Hungarian ever to score world championship points, was able to match the times of some of the official Ford team drivers. Teams are ringing the changes as well. For this event PG Andersson drove for the Stobart team in place of Henning Solberg, who was competing in the Group N category here and in Finland. In Finland Citroen will place Sebastien Ogier in their number one team and relegate Dani Sordo to the Junior Team. Difficult to know whether this perceived disgrace spurred Sordo on, but Sordo's second place on this event was one of the most convincingly results he has achieved in the WRC. Until the final day it was far from clear whether Petter Solberg, in the private Citroen, running with a new c-odriver Chris Patterson, would eventually snatch second place, but in the end Sordo gained his 15th second place on a world championship event. This was the first WRC event hosted by Bulgaria, the 30th country to hold a WRC round, and the roads had a special character. The stages were often wide and fast, interspersed with narrow and often bumpy secondary roads, which stretched high into the mountains. The event had been expected to be run in very high 44