Loeb and Elena win another duel...
Sebastien Loeb and Daniel Elena did not wait long to extend the record for career victories that they broke in Japan. Their win in Cyprus their eighth of the year and their third consecutive triumph on the `Island of Aphrodite' brings the benchmark up to 28 wins, all of them achieved at the wheel of the Citroen Xsara WRC. Seb's lead of the drivers' championship is now up to 35 points, with four rallies and 40 possible points still up for grabs.
Seb and Daniel won yet another tough duel with Marcus Gronholm/Timo Rautiainen after three hard days. Their battle, just as hotly-contested as the one that characterised Rally Japan, ran along a similar timescale. The Finn held the advantage on Friday morning, during which Seb swept the road clean by virtue of his road position. Then the Frenchman fought back on the cleaner roads of the afternoon. A neck-and-neck battle characterised Saturday morning, before Seb took control on Saturday afternoon.
Then... "I remembered Japan," said Seb. "On Sunday morning there I conceded a little bit of time first thing, which was just the invitation Marcus wanted. So I went flat-out on the first stage this morning. A few split times later, it seemed to me that Marcus was no longer pushing to the limit. I was able to calculate my speed based on his, and the end of the rally was a lot calmer."
"While it was nearly the same scenario as Japan, "added the Citroen driver, "the conditions and the pace was very different : more like what you find in Greece. Citroen gathered a lot of data from the Acropolis and worked very hard in testing : my Xsara was entirely competitive here compared to its rival. I hope it will continue to be so over the next four rallies, so that we can win the drivers title and bring the Kronos Total Citroen team the maximum number of points in a very open and exciting manufacturers' championship..."
The reigning World Champion's Spanish team mates did not quite enjoy the same success as their leader. Xevi Pons and Carlos Del Barrio, who were delayed on the opening day, eventually found a suitable rhythm for the twisty stages. They steered clear of trouble throughout Saturday and Sunday, coming out of the last stage in sixth overall. Unfortunately, they were forced to stop on the final road section back to Limassol with a transmission problem.
Dani Sordo and Marc Marti rejoined the rally under the super rally system on Saturday morning, but had the misfortune to go off the road on the Limassol `Downtown' spectator Superspecial. "I found it hard to develop a good rhythm from the start of the rally," said a mortified Dani. "I got a bit over-excited by the thought of being back on asphalt. But the grip is not so good when you just have gravel tyres..."
"I'm obviously torn between the joy that Seb's victory brings us and the disappointment of the mishaps that befell our two young Spaniards, " said Kronos team principal Marc Van Dalen. "Xevi drove the sort of event that he needed to, in order to rebuild his confidence. I'm very pleased to see him as competitive as he was at the beginning of the season again. He deserves his sixth place. As for Dani....what happened was regrettable, as we know that every point counts in the manufacturers' championship. Having said that, we still lead the title race, and we are going to do all we can to try and win it... "