A 'Paso doble' for Citroen in Catalonia The extremely windy first day of the 2008 RallyRACC Catalunya-Costa Daurada has ended with Citroen Sport's two cars in first and second places. The French squad's two crews dominated throughout...
A 'Paso doble' for Citroen in Catalonia
The extremely windy first day of the 2008 RallyRACC Catalunya-Costa Daurada has ended with Citroen Sport's two cars in first and second places. The French squad's two crews dominated throughout and produced one-two finishes on all six stages at the wheel of their respective C4 WRCs. Sebastien Loeb/Daniel Elena top this evening's provisional leaderboard, 15.8 seconds clear of team-mates Dani Sordo/Marc Marti. The opening leg's two identical loops of three stages were based to the north of Salou and totalled 131.76km of competitive action. At respectively 20.48, 21.26 and 24.14 kilometres in length, they were ideally suited to pulling out big gaps. Meanwhile, the rain clouds being monitored by Citroen's technical partner Meteo France Sports were blown out to sea by the strong winds and the action took place entirely in bright, sunny weather.
As conditions dried, the two C4 WRCs went into the morning's loop on hard compound Pirelli Pzero tyres, and the times they posted suggest that this was the correct call. "Given the cold, dry conditions, we knew the hard compound would take time to get up to working temperature, so I pushed hard from the start," reported Sebastien at the lunchtime break. "We immediately settled into a good, fast pace and, because we were running first on the road, we also benefited from a clean road. That meant we could take the ideal lines without doing too much corner cutting, which reduced the risk of picking up a puncture. We've pulled out a handy gap, but it isn't big enough yet. We'll see how the stages are second time round..."
"I had a bit of trouble finding the ideal pace," commented Dani Sordo. "I didn't feel 100% confident with the hard compound tyre and I slightly modified the way I drove in order to profit as much as possible from the potential of my C4. This good start is exactly what we were hoping for. We aren't far behind Seb and we've succeeded in gradually pulling clear of our chasers. How this afternoon unfolds will depend on the conditions, but my aim is to keep on pushing."
Despite the fact that the same three stages were repeated in the afternoon, the conditions didn't deteriorate as much as they have tended to in past years, since the drivers have much less of a tendency to cut the apexes. Given that Sebastien is only moderately fond of this technique, he was delighted to be able to use the whole road... and nothing but the road: "It was only a little bit dirtier than the first pass," observed the winner of the last three Catalunya Rallies. "We consequently continued at the same quick pace to try to increase our lead. My car has handled perfectly all day and we didn't make any mistakes, so we will try to make sure things stay that way tomorrow!"
Continuing at the same pace as the morning's run, Dani and Marc enjoyed an excellent afternoon. "We made some small changes to the set-up of the car to try to eliminate some understeer," explained the Spaniard. "It was a step in the right direction and I felt more confident second time round. We continued to push hard to extend our lead over our rivals in third place and the gap currently stands at 25.5 seconds. That isn't bad but it's by no means sufficient to start thinking that it's in the bag. There are still two more tough days to come."
"Our two C4 WRCs are first and second this evening after the longest day of the rally, so I'm obviously very pleased about that," said Olivier Quesnel. "Both crews got the weekend off to a flying start and succeeded in posting the top two times on all six stages. The squad's remarkable team effort is paying dividends and the situation is looking favourable. It's up to us now to deliver the same sort of performance tomorrow. There's still a long way to go, however, and it will be vital to stay as motivated and focused as we have been today."