Loeb fights back...
Having started the morning with a 6.4 second deficit to the leader, Sebastien Loeb/Daniel Elena and their Kronos Total Citroen Xsara fought back. After a tight battle, they lead Marcus Gronholm/Timo Rautiainen by 21.8 seconds overnight. At the end of a trouble-free day, Xevi Pons/Carlos Del Barrio hold sixth place. Dani Sordo and Marc Marti re-started the leg under the Superally regulations and made up four places to end the day in the top 10.
As was the case yesterday, the sun beat down strongly over the hot gravel of the Cypriot stages. The action consisted once more of two identical loops of four stages, in the southern foothills of the Troodos mountains. On the first run through the stages, Sebastien Loeb running on BFGoodrich `narrow' tyres was closely matched with Marcus Gronholm. A good example is the 30- kilometre Foini Koilinia stage, which Seb won by just 0.1 seconds having also claimed the previous stage. At the midday service halt, after 56 competitive kilometres, Gronholm had extended his lead by just 2.1 seconds.
For the second loop of stages, which promised cleaner and hotter roads, Seb chose BFGoodrich `H1' tyres. These covers are wider than usual and consequently have more rubber in contact with the ground. It proved to be an inspired choice. The reigning World Champion won all four of the afternoon's stages, reversing the trend that had been seen so far and carving himself out a 21.8 second lead. "I am particularly pleased with the second half of my day, " he said. "Yesterday we proved that we could really fight with Marcus and this morning confirmed that. Then the wide BFGoodrich tyres, which were perfect for the road conditions on the second run through the stages, allowed us to make a difference. "
A carbon copy of Japan, then ? "I'd like to think that, of course ! " said Seb. "But if that is really the case, it means we can look forward to an exciting day tomorrow. Marcus is not going to let this one go and neither am I ! " Xevi Pons and Carlos Del Barrio suffered two mishaps yesterday but leg two went much better for the Spanish crew. "I enjoyed myself a lot more today, " said Xevi. " The stages were a lot less slow than yesterday. At midday service, I asked for a small change to my Xsara's set-up. It wasn't a good move : during the afternoon my car was a little too soft. But that didn't hold me back too much. My aim was to avoid mistakes, and I'm very happy to have achieved that. I'm feeling confident and I think I've got a good rhythm and consistency, which is the key to it here... " " So here I am in 10th place, on one manufacturers' point for now, " said Dani Sordo. "My engine is working perfectly, so it was a good idea to stop as soon as we had the problem yesterday even if it did cost us 10 minutes. Nonetheless, I'm kicking myself for having made a mistake this morning, on a junction that we did not make a good note of on the recce. As a result we had a slow roll, but luckily the damage was very minor. Conditions were much better for the second run through the stages, with cleaner roads and less of the gravel and sand we had been forced to sweep away in the morning. I've asked for harder suspension on my Xsara, which suits me better and gives me more confidence. I think that I'm slowly beginning to understand this sort of terrain now... "