Following Thursday’s ceremonial start and the evening’s opening super special stage, the rally only really got underway on Friday morning. Held on roads around Olbia, the day’s four stages were each contested twice, with a mid-leg service in Alghero.
Slieverue man Craig had retired for the day after SS3, whilst running sixth overall. Landing heavily after a jump, he hit an exposed bedrock that had not been spotted during recce. The damaged gearbox meant he was unable to continue, but the team had no problems in repairing the car so that he could return under Rally2 rules the next day.
Back in action on Saturday, Craig and his co-driver Scott Martin produced a couple of fine performances on the Coiluna – Loelle stage, setting the third and second fastest times on each loop. The day’s other stages did not go so well, the pair experiencing a few hairy moments related to the handling of the car. Sunday’s short final leg only featured four stages, contested with no service period.
Despite being second in the running order, Andreas Mikkelsen confirmed the progress made on the opening two days of the rally, setting some encouraging times. Similarly, Craig Breen set another top-three time on SS16.
Looking at the fortunes of the team at this seventh round, clearly the results vary from one crew to the next. “Before the start, we asked our drivers to make it to the end of the rally. I don’t think we were wrong to think that if they managed to do that, we would end up with two cars in the top five,” explained Yves Matton, Citroën Racing Team Principal.
“As regards Craig, his race was rapidly brought to a halt after he was caught out when landing a jump,” continued Yves Matton.
“His lack of knowledge of the stages proved very costly, because it’s a tricky spot that is well known to the more experienced drivers on this rally. Having said that, we have noted that his retirement was similar to the one he suffered in Argentina and we need to look at whether or not we can make the car more able to withstand this type of impact.”
The team is already focused on the next event: Rally Poland (29 June – 2 July). Citroën Total Abu Dhabi WRT will be entering C3 WRCs in Poland, for Craig Breen/Scott Martin, Stéphane Lefebvre/Gabin Moreau and Andreas Mikkelsen/Anders Jæger.
In order to prepare for round eight of the WRC, the team will spend four days testing in Poland. Craig Breen Andreas Mikkelsen and Stéphane Lefebvre will take turns behind the wheel of the C3 WRC. Meanwhile, Kris Meeke and Paul Nagle will take part in recce for Rally Poland.