Same players, shoot again ! For the fourth time this season, after Sweden, Finland and Japan, Sebastien Loeb and Daniel Elena end leg one of a rally chasing Marcus Gronholm and Timo Rautiainen. Just as before, the Citroen duo will start tomorrow...
Same players, shoot again !
For the fourth time this season, after Sweden, Finland and Japan, Sebastien Loeb and Daniel Elena end leg one of a rally chasing Marcus Gronholm and Timo Rautiainen. Just as before, the Citroen duo will start tomorrow with the firm aim of making life extremely difficult for their favourite rivals. Xevi Pons and Carlos Del Barrio did not have as straightforward a run as their team mates, but still ended the day in an excellent sixth place. This position was previously occupied by Dani Sordo and Marc Marti, until an engine problem forced them to stop in `Asinou Nikitari' (SS7).
Leg one, which consisted of two identical loops of four stages, saw a straight fight between Seb Loeb and his usual adversary Marcus Gronholm. The Finn tried to make a break for it over the first loop of stages while the Citroen driver swept away a thick layer of loose gravel by running first on the road. No surprise there: along with slowness (an average speed of about 60kph) and heat (60 inside the car) a thick layer of loose gravel is a defining characteristic of the Rally Cyprus. On the second loop of stages that were already swept clean and so provided equal road conditions for everyone Seb and Daniel regained some of the lost time, reducing a maximum gap of 18.5 seconds to just 6.4 seconds. There is everything still to play for...
" We're in a somewhat familiar situation, " reflected Seb at final service. "We sweep the road clean, lose time, and then try to get it back. Sometimes, like today, it works and that gives us a good battle to look forward to for the rest of the rally. This event is not as exciting as the two rallies that came before it, but it is certainly extremely demanding. You have to put in a big effort in sauna-like conditions, while maintaining maximum concentration to try and keep a clean driving style. This means that on the long stages, your physical fitness can definitely play a part. Risk-taking does not really work here it's more to do with understanding the roads and choosing the correct speed for the right rhythm. "
Returning to the fray after missing a rally, Xevi Pons wanted above all to get his bearings back. He well and truly succeeded, as was proved by his stage times and the fourth place that he held after `Kapouras Asinou' (SS2). His progress was delayed though by two setbacks. "First of all I had a spin on the third stage, which left the nose of the car pointing in the ditch " reported the Spaniard. "Carlos [Del Barrio] had to sit on the back to counterbalance the Xsara, and then I was able to drive out. Then, on the second run through `Kato Amiantos' [SS8], I hit a rock on the apex of a corner with the left rear wheel. The impact broke the suspension wishbone and connecting arm. This made the car extremely difficult to drive, so I am very happy to have got it back to service. I've got a good feeling with the car though, and my times and overall position tonight are not bad. I think there's a lot more still to come... "
The situation was a little more complicated for Dani Sordo and Marc Marti. The reigning Junior World Champion drove a careful opening loop of stages as he felt his way into conditions that were entirely new to him. He had just started to pick up his pace (setting a fourth-fastest time on SS5) when he felt a power loss on SS7. Dani decided to stop 22 kilometres into the 25 kilometre stage, in order not to risk damaging his engine beyond repair. The decision whether or not to re-enter the Spanish crew under the Superally regulations tomorrow will only be taken after the Kronos technicians have examined the engine thoroughly.