At the end of the second day of the 2005 Cyprus Rally, Citroën's Sébastien Loeb/Daniel Elena and Manfred Stohl/Ilka Minor continue to figure in the top two places. After taking everyone by surprise by finishing Leg 1 in 2nd position, the Austrian crew put in another faultless run today and still follows in the wake of the defending World Champions who controlled today's proceedings with their customary maturity. However, François Duval and Stéphane Prévot were eliminated when their car caught fire after going off on SS11.
"The braking zone for the right-hand turn was bumpy," says the young Belgian. "Bumpier than first time through. I braked a little too late, missed the apex and under-steered off the road down a two-metre bank. The front of the car hit a tree and the impact damaged the fuel injection system. A small fire broke out but that was swiftly put out by the onboard extinguishers. I didn't succeed in opening the bonnet but I estimated that the damage wasn't too bad and tried to re-start. However, fire broke out again and the flames spread to the dry undergrowth around the car. There was nothing we could do…"
The incident led to the stage being interrupted before Manfred Stohl and Sébastien Loeb had a chance to start it and both drivers were directed to an alternative itinerary. Seb was given a notional time identical to that of Toni Gardemeister, who had posted the best time up to that point, while Manfred was given the time of his closest chaser, Henning Solberg. When the two Citroëns arrived at the start of SS12, Henning Solberg – who was the last driver to attempt the stage – had left the start line 32 minutes previously. For obvious safety reasons, the organisers decided not to send the second group of cars into the test since spectators had begun to move from their viewing positions. Seb was again given the best time up to that point (that of Gilles Panizzi), while Manfred was once more awarded that of the elder of the Solberg brothers.
For Sébastien Loeb, it proved to be something of a strange day: "I am pleased, of course. We didn't have any problems with the car and I didn't make any mistakes. Those two points were essential today and will be again tomorrow. I can't remember having previously led a WRC rally by such a big margin and it's a weird feeling. I tell myself that I am my own biggest rival. I must stay concentrated to avoid the sort of troubles that have decimated the field, especially since today's stages were in a better condition than yesterday's. Tomorrow's are rougher. When it's like that, when you haven't got a fight on your hands, you suffer at the same time as your car and it's difficult to derive any real pleasure…"
For the second day running, Manfred Stohl attended the end-of-leg press conference for the top-three finishers and was understandably beaming: "My Citroën is going very, very well. Kronos Racing are good listeners and very reactive when I ask for something. Their work is impeccable. Personally, I am taking it easy everywhere whenever the conditions dictate. There's only one day to go and although that's by no means a foregone conclusion, I find myself dreaming that I can finish on the podium. For a 'privateer', that really is something!"