Citroen DS3 WRC drivers Petter Solberg and Kimi Raikkonen both finished within the points on Rally de Portugal. The pair were part of three crews competing with cars entered by private teams and run with the support of Citroen Racing Technologies.
Solberg and co-driver Chris Patterson, entered by the Norwegian's own Petter Solberg World Rally Team, were matching the leading factory crews for pace on the opening stages of Friday but suffered from multiple punctures that eventually caused him to retire before the end of the day's closing stage. He re-started the following morning and began his climb up the overall standings. He clocked six fastest stage times and ended the rally in sixth position.
Solberg has so far been hit by misfortune on each of the three rallies this season. Despite this he is not giving up on his aim of challenging for the title. “I'm disappointed not to have been able to fight for victory,” said Solberg. “After our punctures we needed to attack in order to get sixth place on the very last stage. These are very important points, but I'm aiming for better results. I promise that I'm never giving up though.”
Ice 1 Racing driver Kimi Raikkonen and co-driver Kaj Lindstrom enjoyed a solid rally, with the former Formula 1 champion staying out of trouble as well as showing promising glimpses of pace. He finished seventh, having been overhauled by the flying Solberg on the final stage of the rally.
Raikkonen has now scored points on both of the rallies he has started in the DS3 WRC. “Apart from a puncture on Friday afternoon and a bit of time lost in the dust of another competitor yesterday, we had a rally with no problems,” he explained. “We learnt a lot about the CitroÃ«n DS3 WRC on our first gravel rally with this new car. As the stages went on, we made progress with the set-up and I think my driving has improved as well throughout the three days. It's been a valuable less and I hope to pick up my pace on the next rally.”
Peter van Merksteijn Jr was making his competition debut in the Citroen DS3 WRC in Portugal, driving for the Van Merksteijn Motorsport operation and navigated by Eddy Chevaillier. An engine problem triggered by a watersplash on Saturday caused him to miss some of the stages, but returned to action on Sunday to finish 22nd.
“I can draw a very positive conclusion from my first experience with the CitroÃ«n DS3 WRC even though I think I was a bit unlucky,” said van Merksteijn. “We had a small problem on the second day that deprived us of important kilometres as we were learning the car. The objective of this rally was to get to know the car. I'm sure I can go quicker, but that will just come with experience.”
Benoit Nogier, head of Citroen Racing Technologies, was pleased with the performances of the three drivers. “Petter Solberg once more showed his competitiveness by fighting with the factory cars in his privately-run CitroÃ«n DS3 WRC. Again, it was sheer bad luck that prevented him from recording a better result. Here, that was down to the tyres. We hope that this is at least now an end to his bad luck and that he will go on to achieve success on the next events. Kimi RÃ¤ikkÃ¶nen drove a consistent rally. He already showed his reliability in Sweden and he continued that pattern here. Having found a better set-up at the end of the first day, he made a lot of progress. That's very encouraging for the future. Finally, we had a technical problem with Peter van Merksteijn Jr's car, which cost him valuable kilometres. He showed a very good frame of mind and is already at the level of the other drivers who are learning their cars. We'll keep making steady progress with him, step by step, as the season goes on.”