WRC Friday wrap: Loeb enjoys the perfect day Sebastien Loeb and his Citroen C4 WRC didn't miss a beat through the first four stages of the inaugural World Rally Championship round in Bulgaria. The Frenchman, who has won the last 15 pure...
WRC Friday wrap: Loeb enjoys the perfect day
Sebastien Loeb and his Citroen C4 WRC didn't miss a beat through the first four stages of the inaugural World Rally Championship round in Bulgaria.
The Frenchman, who has won the last 15 pure asphalt rounds of the WRC, was peerless for every one of the opening day's 118 competitive kilometres. The only change for Loeb through the afternoon came in his rear-view mirror as Sebastien Ogier slipped off the road in the third test, allowing Dani Sordo to move into second place.
Petter Solberg was third at the end of day one, ensuring that, while Citroen's domination of the top five might have slipped with Ford's Mikko Hirvonen running fourth this evening, the French firm still has the provisional podium locked down.
"The feeling for me has been very good today," said Loeb. "There was some gravel in some of the corners this afternoon, but nothing too bad. I tried to drive the same as this morning and the times were close [to what he set through the morning]. But, there is still a long way to go in this event, and the weather could make it difficult tomorrow. I will try to be confident again tomorrow, but today has been perfect for me and the car."
Ogier was just 2.6 seconds ahead of Sordo when he went off the road and - given the Spaniard's upturn in pace through the second run of stages - the Citroen Junior Team driver might have found it tough to keep Sordo behind.
That all became academic when the Rally Portugal winner misheard a pace note call mid-way through the stage and went straight off the road. "It took some time for me to get back on the road," said Ogier, who dropped to sixth in the standings. "It's quite frustrating, but that can be the rally some times."
Sordo was much happier through the afternoon. Second fastest on both stages, he added eight seconds to his advantage over third-placed Solberg. "We made a change to the rear of the car," said Sordo, "and this really worked for me this afternoon. The car had less understeer. But still it's not easy, Sebastien [Loeb] is driving so well, some times it's unbelievable what he is doing."
Solberg, who ran on the same tyres for the afternoon as he did through the morning - hoping the scrubbed rubber would offer better grip - was pleased to still be in touch with Sordo, particularly after spending his first day with new co-driver Chris Patterson.
Hirvonen's fastest Ford was 32.9 seconds down on Solberg and more than a minute off the lead. The Finn had moved up one more position after Kimi Raikkonen crashed out of the rally on the fourth stage.
"This hasn't been a good day," said Hirvonen. "I wasn't so confident in the pace notes this morning, sometimes they were too fast and then in some corners too slow. Like this morning, when the road was dirty or technical, I felt we were okay and the pace was good, but in the fast sections we were not really there. We made some changes at lunchtime and this helped the car, it was definitely better this afternoon."
Hirvonen's Ford team-mate Jari-Matti Latvala is fifth, 10 seconds behind his countryman with Ogier seventh. Stobart new boy P-G Andersson is seventh with Hungarian Peugeot 307 WRC driver Frigyes Turan eighth.