A sensational Rally Portugal has delivered one last surprise, with rally winner Mikko Hirvonen excluded for use of a n0n-homologated clutch component in his Citroen DS3 WRC.
His car was also found to have an oversized turbocompressor turbine wheel, but this infringement is still under investigation after discussions between scrutineers and Citroen team members Yves Matton, Daniel Grataloup and Xavier Mestelan-Pinon. However, the scrutineers have already decided the clutch infringement is a clear cut issue and have disqualified Hirvonen on those grounds.
The stewards released a statement explaining their decision to exclude the Finn from the rally classification.
“On being questioned, Mr Mestelan-Pinon explained that the clutch was a ‘joker’ part introduced as provided for in the regulations and agreed that the part removed from the car during post-event scrutineering did not match that shown on the homologation form. He also explained that the clutch removed from the car was from a different batch number to that shown on the homologation form. He stated that this was clearly a big mistake and was unsure how it happened.
“In the case of the turbo, the Citroen representative stated that the turbo unit was a standard unit provided by the specialist manufacturer Garrett who, in fact, provided the turbo units for all World Rally Cars.
“He explained that the turbine wheel was subject to extreme temperature and rpm factors which had an effect on the wheel dimensions. He added that this aspect had been the subject of discussions with the FIA technical department.
“It is noted that the homologation papers state that the dimension C is given as 54.00mm with a tolerance of plus/minus 0.1mm. Mr Mestelan-Pinon stated that the new turbine wheel when measured, was 54.02mm, which is very close to the specified dimension, including the tolerance The wheel will be measured again under laboratory conditions.”
Despite the clear rules breach by Citroen, the French marque have decided to appeal the exclusion, on the grounds that there was no intention to cheat on the part of the team, and the changes offered no performance advantage either.
“The scrutineers identified differences in between the homologation sheet and two components: the clutch and the turbocharger,” said Mestelan-Pinon. “The Citroen DS3 WRC’s clutch mechanisms are homologated with lightening holes. Our supplier recently provided us with a batch of parts that were not perforated and one of them was fitted to the #2 DS3 WRC.
“These parts don’t provide any gain in terms of performance, as they are heavier than those which are homologated.
“Regarding the turbocharger, which is a standard part on all World Rally Cars, the wheel turbine dimension exceed the maximum authorised. This difference comes from dilatation, as the wheel is subject to extreme temperature and rpm factors.”
For now, the change in results means Mads Ostberg has been handed the first win of his career, with Evgeny Novikov promoted to second and Petter Solberg becoming an unexpected benefactor in the title race with his inherited third place, whilst none of his other main rivals failed to score. Peter van Merksteijn Jr. also picks up an unexpected point after being passed for what was the final points position on the penultimate stage by Jari Ketomaa.
The results mean Sebastien Loeb retains his championship lead by a single point over Solberg, with Ostberg moving up to a surprising third place in points, despite missing the season opener in Monte Carlo, and Novikov moves ahead of Jari-Matti Latvala to take fifth place in the championship standings.
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