The C4 WRC in 1st and 2nd places after the Vercors stages The C4 WRCs of SÃ©bastien Loeb/Daniel Elena and Dani Sordo/Marc MartÃ completed the first and shortest leg of the 2007 Monte Carlo Rally in 1st and 2n d places. The evening's start ...
The C4 WRC in 1st and 2nd places after the Vercors stages
The C4 WRCs of Sébastien Loeb/Daniel Elena and Dani Sordo/Marc Martí completed the first and shortest leg of the 2007 Monte Carlo Rally in 1st and 2n d places.
The evening's start ceremony was preceded by the morning's shakedown based a short distance to the north-west of host town Valence in the village of Mauves where, before this test run was interrupted on safety grounds, the two Citroën crews had a chance to familiarise themselves with the Citroën C4 WRC which is making its debut in world class rallying this weekend.
For the first time since 1997 (the year that saw the introduction of WRC cars in the World Rally Championship), a complete leg was organised not only on a Thursday but also entirely in darkness. The evening's programme featured two stages: 'St Jean en Royans/Col de Lachau' and 'La Cime du Mas/Col de Gaudissant' which together totalled 46.40km.
Information concerning the conditions relayed by Citroën's own ice-note crews, the weathermen and BFGoodrich's technicians confirmed the tendency seen during recce, namely a total absence of snow to mark the Monte Carlo Rally's return to the Vercors region. Even so, the stages were damp in places, and even very wet in others.
The Citroën Sport squad was keen to see how the new C4 WRC compared with its rivals and the top-two stage times claimed by its drivers on SS1 set the tone for the rest of the evening and also served to reassure the team. "There was always an element of doubt prior leading up to the first two stages," explained Sébastien. "The combination of a new car, extremely fast stages and tricky conditions put us under a fair bit of pressure. But the C4's handling was really very good. Our choice of harder tyres compared to those chosen by our main rivals was quite a bold one to start the rally but it paid off. Dani's times on alternative tyres showed that the car is competitive."
Dani's thoughts mirrored those of Seb! "Citroën Sport really has done a fantastic job. This evening I was obviously pleased with my times but they were also a nice reward for all those who have worked so hard on the C4 WRC. There was something magical about the start of the first stage with so many people about, in darkness. It was really in the spirit of the Monte Carlo," beamed the young Spaniard.
The split times and the definitive times of the second stage saw a repeat of the C4 WRC's excellent performance, with Sébastien and Daniel once again posting the best performance, while Dani and Marc were 3rd quickest. "I was perhaps a little too cautious in that stage," reported Dani. "But that's not a problem. The rally has started well for us but there's still a long way to go." Sébastien's thoughts followed similar lines and the Frenchman was careful not to be triumphant at this early stage.
At the end of the first day, everyone at Citroën Sport was pleased with the weekend's positive start, but caution prevailed. "The car's potential and Seb's fitness are reassuring," commented Guy Fréquelin. "We were under a lot of pressure and very anxious; perhaps even more so than at the start of the 2003 season. Tonight's showing comes as a big relief because we needed to repeat here in Valence what we could only really guess at during the C4 WRC's test programme. Sébastien started the rally with an aggressive tyre choice which turned out to be the right one, while Dani started a little more cautiously. His mission is to drive quickly but with a safety margin so as not to make any mistakes. And that's exactly what he did this evening. This event is far from over. We will need to repeat this evening's performance tomorrow on stages that will be very different from today's."