May 21, 2017
Contested on roads around Fafe, Rally de Portugal’s short final leg had no bearing on the overall standings. Craig Breen and Scott Martin ended the event as the Citroën Total Abu Dhabi WRT’s highest-placed crew, finishing fifth overall. All four of the team’s Citroën C3 WRCs made it to the end of the season’s sixth round.
Following two long days, the third and final leg was more like a sprint finish, featuring four short stages contested without a service break. The famous Fafe stage was contested twice, the second pass serving as the Power Stage.
The Citroën Total Abu Dhabi WRT crews went into the final day with different goals. Craig Breen/Scott Martin were looking to hold onto their place in the top five, whilst Stéphane Lefebvre/Gabin Moreau, Khalid Al Qassimi/Chris Patterson and Kris Meeke/Paul Nagle were more interested in using the remaining kilometres to increase their experience and gather data.
Once again, Craig Breen’s lack of experience in Portugal showed. Unlike his direct rivals, the Irishman was competing on these stages for the first time. Since he held a healthy lead over his nearest challenger, he could afford to take his time in getting his bearings.
Kris Meeke was the quickest of the Citroën drivers during the morning. In particular, the British driver set the second fastest time on Montim (SS18).
Fourth on the road, Stéphane Lefebvre had to cope with sweeping the loose gravel off the surface. Constantly looking for grip, the young Frenchman focused on keeping his car on the road.
Equally hampered by his starting position, Khalid Al Qassimi caused a real stir on the Power Stage. The Abu Dhabi produced the most spectacular jump, only just managing to pull his C3 WRC out of the ditch and make it to the finishing line!
After this final stage, Craig Breen and Scott Martin claimed yet another fifth place, just as they did in Monte-Carlo, Sweden and at the Tour de Corse. The Anglo-Irish crew lie seventh in the Drivers’ World Championship.
Yves Matton, Citroën Racing Team Principal: “With the fifth place of Craig and Scott, who were contesting this rally properly for the first time, we have secured a decent result. We can also be pleased with our level of performance on the opening day, when we had two crews challenging for the lead. We are now going to turn our attention to the next event.”
Craig Breen: “It looks like I’ve signed up for fifth place for the season! It’s been another good weekend for us. We were one of the fastest on Friday and in all likelihood, we would have led the overall standings had we not hit a rock and broken a damper on SS7. We had a little bit more difficulty matching the pace of the leading cars on the next two days. I think there were several factors at play, but it was mainly down to my lack of knowledge of the stages and not having such a good starting position. We’ll keep working and try to do even better in Sardinia.”
Stéphane Lefebvre: “The result obviously falls way short of what we were looking for when we came here. We had worked particularly hard to prepare for this rally, but our race changed shape dramatically on Friday morning. After our roll, we tried to improve as we completed more stages. Our starting position certainly didn’t help us to show what we can do.”
Kris Meeke: “We ended the rally today having got back to a rhythm closer to that of the leading crews. It seems that our level of performance wasn’t as good after the first leg, and we’ll need to work out why. We must all keep working and, on my side of things, I have to cut out these minor mistakes.”
Khalid Al Qassimi: “We had quite a scare on the second run over the Fafe jump! I wanted to go faster than on the first pass, but it was clearly a bit too much… In any case, I’m pleased to make it to the end of my first rally in the Citroën C3 WRC. I need to get more kilometres under my belt to come to terms with its potential.”
FINAL PROVISIONAL STANDINGS
1. Ogier / Ingrassia (Ford Fiesta WRC) 3:42:55.7
2. Neuville / Gilsoul (Hyundai i20 WRC) +15.6
3. Sordo / Marti (Hyundai i20 WRC) 1:01.7
4. Tänak / Jarveoja (Ford Fiesta WRC) 1:30.2
5. Breen / Martin (Citroën C3 WRC) +1:57.4
6. Evans / Barritt (Ford Fiesta WRC) 3:10.6
7. Hänninen / Lindstrom (Toyota Yaris WRC) +3:48.9
8. Østberg / Floene (Ford Fiesta WRC) +5:29.7
… 13. Lefebvre / Moreau (Citroën C3 WRC) +12:02.3
… 17. Al Qassimi / Patterson (Citroën C3 WRC) +21:11.2
… 18. Meeke / Nagle (Citroën C3 WRC) +22:19.1
DRIVERS’ WORLD CHAMPIONSHIP
1. Sébastien Ogier – 128 points
2. Thierry Neuville – 106 points
3. Jari-Matti Latvala – 88 points
4. Ott Tänak – 83 points
5. Dani Sordo – 66 points
6. Elfyn Evans – 53 points
7. CRAIG BREEN – 43 points
8. Hayden Paddon – 33 points
9. KRIS MEEKE – 27 points
10. Juho Hänninen – 21 points
11. Andreas Mikkelsen – 12 points
12. STEPHANE LEFEBVRE – 10 points
13. Mads Østberg – 6 points
14. Teemu Suninen – 5 points
15. Jan Kopecky – 4 points
MANUFACTURERS’ WORLD CHAMPIONSHIP
1. M-Sport WRT – 199 points
2. Hyundai Motorsport – 173 points
3. Toyota Gazoo Racing WRT – 116 points
4. Citroën Total Abu Dhabi WRT – 87 points
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