Shaping up for a three-way fight... Despite suffering from the handicap of being roadsweepers for everyone else, Sebastien Loeb, Daniel Elena and their Kronos-run Citroen Xsara WRC fought at the sharp end of the action throughout the opening leg.
Shaping up for a three-way fight...
Despite suffering from the handicap of being roadsweepers for everyone else, Sebastien Loeb, Daniel Elena and their Kronos-run Citroen Xsara WRC fought at the sharp end of the action throughout the opening leg. The reigning World Champions have Petter Solberg and Marcus Gronholm as their targets, which promises a thrilling three-way battle tomorrow...
Today's action consisted of a morning loop of three stages totalling 59 competitive kilometres which was repeated in the afternoon. Under a blazing sky with soaring temperatures, a re-make of the Rally d'Italia- Sardinia's opening day seemed to take place. Once more, Seb and Daniel played the role of involuntary roadsweepers, their Xsara leaving two neat and clean lines for the benefit of their pursuers.
"I'm not at all unhappy though, " said Seb at the end of the day. "For the first time this season, we're going to get the fight between three drivers and cars that we've all been waiting for. It's pretty exciting. On the other hand, I can't get away from the fact that I'm not where I would ideally like to be. During the first loop of stages, I knew that I would be sweeping the road clean and dropping time. But I expected a bit more from the second loop. It's not through lack of trying ! I didn't go for the new BFGoodrich H2 tyres, but equally my tyre choice seemed good. I gave it everything I could and I wasn't alone in that . Tomorrow, I've got an excellent sparring partner in Petter. Trying to get past him will be the best way to get me closer to Marcus . In any case, I'm going to keep putting on pressure..."
Xevi Pons and Carlos Del Barrio finished in 11th place this evening, having like Seb and Daniel avoided major problems. Xevi commented : "We picked up two punctures, on SS3 and SS7, but the mousse worked well and we didn't really have to slow down. We also had a stall on SS7, which cost a few seconds. During the recce, I really liked Skourta [SS3/6] and I was convinced that we could do something special there but that didn't happen. Everything's open for tomorrow though, and we are 25 seconds away from fifth place. Given that there's so much road still ahead of us, it's not a huge margin. We can still do the job here... "
"I'm really pleased to get to the end ! " was Dani Sordo's immediate reaction, in ninth. "I was really suffering in the heat. With my lack of experience, starting third on the road here was a real trial. During the second loop of stages, the set-up changes made by the team at midday service proved to be a good step in the right direction. My tyre choice [BFGoodrich H1] was the right one for the first two stages of the afternoon loop [ES5/6], but was less effective on the final stage, which was quite broken up. I didn't like that stage the first and the second time ! I've been using Seb's pace as a reference, and occasionally I've managed to set some good times. Tomorrow, as always, I'm going to try to be more consistent and improve my times during the second run through the stages... "