Loeb and Elena put on a champions' performance! When Sebastien Loeb and Daniel Elena started Rally Spain, they were not there just to make up the numbers. Despite the fact that they were first out on the Catalonian gravel the 7-time ...
Loeb and Elena put on a champions' performance!
When Sebastien Loeb and Daniel Elena started Rally Spain, they were not there just to make up the numbers. Despite the fact that they were first out on the Catalonian gravel the 7-time World Champions* finished the opening day in the lead with a small margin over Sebastien Ogier and Julien Ingrassia. The second Citroen Total World Rally Team's C4 WRC is currently lying sixth in the hands of Spanish pair, Dani Sordo and Diego Vallejo.
Before the start of the rally, Sebastien Loeb said that he wasn't really looking forward to the first loop mainly on gravel : "There's going to be a thick layer of dust to sweep off and our position as first out on the road will be a big disadvantage. I expect to lose quite a few seconds."
At the finish of the 36-km Terra Alta stage, the no.1 C4 WRC set the quickest time: "The special was run in thick fog and the gravel roads were damp because of the wet atmosphere. It was a nice surprise as our handicap was almost transformed into an advantage! Unlike previous rallies in which I had to finish to score points in the championship, I really went for it. I pushed as hard as I could and I think that's what made the difference in the poor visibility conditions."
In SS3, Loeb set another fastest time and finished the first loop of three stages with a 12-second lead over his nearest pursuer. Dani Sordo who many considered as favourite for this rally, was back in sixth place already 25s behind his team-mate: "Of course, I can't be happy with this start to the race. Neither the conditions not the setup can explain the gap."
Loeb was less at home second time through the stages, and Sebastien Ogier got to within 2.1s of the leading C4 WRC after SS5. The Citroen Total World Rally Team lead driver fought back in the last stage of the day, and held on to his first place by a margin of 3.8s. "Overall, it's been very positive today as we thought we'd lose a lot of time on the gravel," smiled Seb when he arrived back in the Salou service park. "The gaps closed up during the afternoon, but we managed to hang on to the lead. We can tackle the second leg in a relaxed frame of mind. On asphalt the road conditions are very similar for the first three or four, but it's better to be first. Despite the fact that there's not a whole lot at stake in this rally, I'm determined to fight for victory. It's a lot easier to drive when you don't have to keep saying to yourself that the slightest mistake could have serious consequences for the championship!"
Dani Sordo was still sixth at the end of the day, and he preferred to look ahead to the second leg: "I really can't say what didn't work today. In any case it didn't turn out as I'd dreamed it would. I didn't feel at home in the C4 WRC, which kept breaking away at the rear. The mechanics are going to change just about everything this evening. We'll see what happens tomorrow. I hope I'll be able to catch Mikko Hirvonen."
During the 75-minute service halt, the Citroen Total World mechanics put the cars in asphalt setup. The gearbox, suspension, brakes and protections were all changed so that the C4 WRCS will be ready to devour the Catalonian asphalt tomorrow!
*Subject to the publication of the official results by the FIA.