Evgeny Novikov and Denis Giraudet finished seventh in their first outing at the wheel of a Citroën DS3 WRC in a round of the World Rally Championship. Despite being delayed by a puncture, Peter Van Merksteijn and Erwin Monbaerts showed how much they have improved on tarmac, and also set the seventh-quickest time in the longest stage of the season.
While the penultimate round of the year got off to a great start for Petter Solberg, who set the fastest time in the shakedown, his race came to an abrupt end as the Norwegian went out in the first stage. “There was so much dust; I’ve rarely seen such conditions,” said the 2003 world champion. “In a corner where we couldn’t see anything, we clipped a barrier and tore off a wheel. We couldn’t continue. Rather than rejoining in the SuperRally without any hope of scoring a good result, we decided to call it quits and do everything possible to guarantee our participation in Rally Great Britain.”
Kimi Räikkönen also had a pretty hectic first day when a fuel leak caused a fire. The Finn had to retire before tackling the tarmac section of the rally, so all the efforts of Citroën Racing Technologies were concentrated on Evgeny Novikov and Peter Van Merksteijn.
In his first rally in a Citroën DS3 WRC, the Russian with the experienced Denis Giraudet as co-driver, went quicker and quicker as the kilometres rolled by. Novikov set the fifth-fastest time in SS6, Les Garrigues 2, and was always in the top 10. Despite a puncture, he drove an impeccable rally and saw the flag in seventh place after getting the better of Henning Solberg at the end of the event. “It’s my best result of the season,” he explained. “We’ve done a lot of work with the team and I felt more and more at home behind the wheel. My main aim was to see the finish and get to know the car. I’ve done so and on top of that I’ve scored points!”
Peter Van Merksteijn made a cautious start to the rally in the dust on the first day. He upped the pace on the tarmac before losing a lot of time due to a puncture. “I was really looking forward to the tarmac sections. I made a good start setting the seventh-best time in the longest stage, El Priorat 1. Unfortunately, we then lost time by puncturing in the worst possible place. I had to continue for several kilometres before I was able to change the wheel. Despite everything, we managed to score four points for our team, Van Merksteijn Motorsport.”