FULL-HOUSE FOR CITROEN/BFGOODRICH IN SPAIN First place for Sebastien Loeb/Daniel Elena and second spot for Dani Sordo/Marc Marti ensured yet another one-two success for Citroen/BFGoodrich on the asphalt of Catalonia. The Citroen pair left no...
FULL-HOUSE FOR CITROEN/BFGOODRICH IN SPAIN
First place for Sebastien Loeb/Daniel Elena and second spot for Dani Sordo/Marc Marti ensured yet another one-two success for Citroen/BFGoodrich on the asphalt of Catalonia. The Citroen pair left no hope for Ford Focus/BFGoodrich's Marcus Gronholm and Mikko Hirvonen who followed in third and fourth places respectively. Sebastien Loeb's 35th world class win takes him to within six points of Gronholm in the Drivers' championship, while Ford/BFGoodrich continues to top the provisional Manufacturers' standings going into next weekend's Tour de Corse in France.
The outcome of the 2007 RallyRACC Catalunya-Costa Daurada was essentially decided on the dramatic first leg which was marked by changing weather conditions. The heavy showers that fell over the Costa Daurada region before the start left the roads damp, and even very wet in places as crews pulled out of the PortAventura service park early Friday morning.
Despite the damp conditions, the BFGoodrich drivers opted for soft compound dry weather g-Force Profiler tyres, sporting varying degrees of 'cuts' according to the information communicated to them by their respective 'safety crews'. Marcus Gronholm (Ford/BFGoodrich) and Sebastien Loeb (Citroen/BFGoodrich) won a stage apiece before returning to the service park under somewhat clearer skies.
With every minute that passed up in the mountains behind the coast, the roads were rapidly drying, which caused plenty of head-scratching when the time came to choose tyres for the second attempt at the same two stages. The Ford camp banked on the asphalt still being wet in the shade and therefore chose '2-' compound 'maxi-cut' g-Force Profilers. "I thought the stages would still be damp in places but they were completely dry," lamented Gronholm after falling behind the two Citroen C4 WRC drivers. "It only took me a couple of hundred metres into the first stage to realize that my tyre choice wasn't ideal. The compound was OK but I had them 'cut' too much."
The Citroen drivers also chose '2-' compound (medium-soft) g-Force Profilers but with fewer cuts and a fastest time for Dani Sordo saw the Spaniard return to the service park in the lead prior to the day's last two stages which would basically decide the outcome of the weekend.
The weather forecasters predicted a 20% chance of rain returning during the latter part of the afternoon and the Citroen/BFGoodrich team had extra cuts added to their g-Force Profilers, plus well a circumferential groove to clear surface water... just in case the heavens did open. Meanwhile, the Ford/BFGoodrich team believed it would stay dry and its two drivers went out on 'un-cut' tyres.
True, SS5 was perfectly dry and Mikko Hirvonen and Marcus Gronholm unsurprisingly posted the fastest and second fastest times. However, threatening skies were already gathering over SS6 (Pratdip) and, very soon, rain did begin to fall. When Marcus Gronholm started the 26km test, there were a few spots of rain about. However, the farther he got, the damper the asphalt became and the final kilometres were extremely wet.
Meanwhile, running on dry weather g-Force Profiler tyres on the wet surface, Sebastien Loeb and Dani Sordo both put in stunning performances. "I gave it everything I could," reported Loeb at the end of the day. "Rain tyres would have been the ideal choice but by pushing as hard as I could I managed to keep the heat in my dry weather g-Force Profilers all the way to the finish."
The Frenchman covered the stage 14.9s quicker than his team-mate Sordo and, more significantly, almost a second per kilometre quicker than the factory Fords. By the end of the first leg, it was practically all over bar the shouting, with Loeb well in command ahead of Sordo and Gronholm who trailed by 50.6s. The next two days were simply a procession until this afternoon's finish ceremony where Sebastien Loeb and Daniel Elena were able to celebrate their third consecutive win in Spain.
BP-Ford WRT. For Friday morning's mixed stages (dry and wet), the Ford drivers opted for the same tyres as their Citroen rivals, but with different degrees of 'cutting'. For SS3 and SS4, Gronholm reported to have overly 'cut' his tread pattern. Inversely, they were insufficiently 're-cut' for the third loop, or rather for the heavy rain that fell during SS6.
Citroen-Total WRT. Good tyre and 'cut' choices for the works drivers, Loeb and Sordo, as well as for Francois Duval. The '2' compound (medium) was perhaps too hard in the rain that fell during SS6, but SS5 was entirely dry. Saturday saw Loeb make safer choices than his team-mate Sordo.
Subaru WRT. Petter Solberg and Xevi Pons globally chose the same tyres all weekend, while Chris Atkinson lost ground after selecting a slightly too hard compound for SS1/2 on Friday morning when the roads were still too damp for the '2-' compound g-Force Profiler 2- (medium/soft).
QUOTES FROM SPAIN: Sebastien Loeb (Citroen/BFGoodrich)
"Tyre choices were complex on Friday but it was really on SS6 that we won this rally by going out on 're-cut' '2' compound g-Force Profilers. I asked a great deal of them over the early part of the stage to keep them up to temperature, then I continued to push as hard as I could to keep the heat in them all the way to the finish. Despite the wet conditions, they gave incredible grip, especially in the middle part of the stage.