Sergio Vallejo inside the top-ten
The long opening leg of the 2008 Rally Principe de Asturias - which was made complex by the day's extremely changeable weather - saw the BFGoodrich Drivers Team representative Sergio Vallejo finish ninth overall in his Peugeot 207 S2000. The second leg on Saturday features a programme of more than 80km of competitive action and is shaping up to produce a thrilling scrap between Vallejo and his fellow Spaniards Luis Monzon and Alberto Hevia.
Given the torrential rain that has fallen in the Oviedo region recently, it was clearly preferable to be behind the wheel of a four-wheel drive Peugeot 207 S2000 than a Porsche GT3 for the first leg of the Spanish fixture. Sergio Vallejo and his co-driver brother Diego consequently had every reason to be delighted with their selection by a panel comprising Spanish journalists, Kronos and BFGoodrich to drive the 2007 IRC-winning car on the fourth port-of- call of the 2008 BFGoodrich Drivers Team programme.
That said, it's never easy at the best of times to familiarise oneself quickly with a new car, find its limits without exceeding them and then take the fight to the top Intercontinental Rally Challenge stars. So in the sort of conditions encountered today, it was pretty much impossible, even for the likes of 41-year old former Fiat Espana driver Sergio Vallejo who is currently second in the Spanish national championship with his Porsche.
He took things cautiously over the day'sopening test which was run in very wet conditions. After that, however, he went on to post a series of sixth- and seventh-fastest times to emerge in sixth place after SS6, just 14.6 seconds behind his compatriot Dani Sola (2002 Junior World Champion), and ahead of Peugeot Espana's Luis Monzon and Fiat Auto Espana's Miguel Fuster (2007 Spanish Champion).
Unfortunately, the rest of the day went less well for him, notably because of an excessively conservative tyre choice for the last two stages (W00 rain tyres) which saw the BFGoodrich Drivers Team-backed Peugeot 207 S2000 fall back three places to end the day in ninth spot.
His objective now will be to profit from tomorrow's 88km of stagesto recover lost ground, and his initial aim will be to make up the 5.5s deficit that separates him from Luis Monzon (Peugeot/BFGoodrich) in eighth place. After that, he will be able to set his sights on factory Abarth driver Anton Alen before attempting to mix it with fellow Spaniards Sola, Garcia Ojeda and Fuster.
Sergio Vallejo (9th, Peugeot/BFGoodrich):
"This is a very difficult rally and the grip changes all the time. It was raining over certain stages and then completely dry on others, making it really difficult to select the ideal tyres, especially when you have to choose such a long time ahead of loops of two or three stages at a time. Thankfully, I was able to benefit from the help of the people at Kronos and my BFGoodrich technician. Apart from that, it hasn't been too bad a day. My car is excellent and I'mthoroughly enjoying myself."