WRC

Rally Deutschland: Series leg 1 midday report

Midday wrap: Loeb holds early advantage in Germany Sebastien Loeb's bid for an eighth win on Rallye Deutschland got off to the perfect start this morning when he completed the opening loop of three stages with a lead of 8.2 seconds over his ...

Midday wrap: Loeb holds early advantage in Germany

Sebastien Loeb's bid for an eighth win on Rallye Deutschland got off to the perfect start this morning when he completed the opening loop of three stages with a lead of 8.2 seconds over his Citroen team-mate Dani Sordo.

Loeb, the six-time world rally champion, has been fastest on all stages run so far in his C4 WRC as the sun shone over the vineyard tests.

However, it hasn't all been plain sailing for the French ace who reported glancing a barrier 500 metres from the finish of stage two, which inflicted slight damage to his car's right rear wheel rim. After checks at the subsequent refuel area, Loeb was duly concerned.

"We broke the side of the wheel a little bit but we didn't want to change it because doing that would have cost us a complete set of soft tyres," explained Loeb. "So we kept it on and that turned out to be the right choice. With three fastest times it's been a good start for us. The feeling in the car is okay, but Dani is pushing hard."

Sordo has enjoyed a strong run alongside new co-driver Diego Vallejo and is 28.8s clear of third-placed Jari-Matti Latvala. "With every stage it's getting better and better," said Sordo of his new partnership. "The first stage was a little complicated for us both but we picked up our pace in the second and now I'm really happy the way it's working. Now I'm feeling confident."

Works Ford team driver Latvala moved into third when team-mate Mikko Hirvonen ran wide on a corner and stalled the engine of his Focus. Hirvonen said: "It's been okay, I just haven't got a good rhythm yet. Sometimes it's fine, sometimes I'm too cautions. I stalled in the last stage but apart from that it's been alright. We are closer [to the Citroens] than in Bulgaria, for sure, but there's still more to come. It's going in the right direction. We'll make no major changes in service, I'm happy with the car. But I need to work on the confidence - and that's in my head."

Fifth-placed Sebastien Ogier was hampered by a problem with his C4's anti-stall system and lost time as a result. Briton Matthew Wilson completes the top six in his Focus despite a mistake near the start of the stage.

Francois Duval, who is making his return to the WRC after two seasons, suffered a loss of front-wheel drive five kilometres from the finish of stage two. As a result he had to complete the test and the subsequent 19.92-kilometre stage on rear-wheel drive only.

Petter Solberg's hopes of a podium finish suffered a blow when he stopped to change his deflated right-rear tyre 11.3 kilometres into stage one, where Khalid Al Qassimi and Ken Block also hit trouble. Al Qassimi slid into a ditch 1.5 kilometres from the start while Block, starting only his third asphalt rally, stalled at a junction.

Martin Prokop led the Super 2000 World Rally Championship after the first three stages, with the Czech driver hovering on the fringes of the top 10 overall in his Ford Fiesta S2000. Prokop has made the perfect start to the event, albeit with a couple of moments on the second test. Patrik Sandell is second S-WRC, the Swede demoting his countryman P-G Andersson to third on SS2. Andersson remains third at lunchtime service.

One man not so happy with his start is S-WRC series leader Xevi Pons. The Spaniard has struggled to match the pace of the cars ahead after damaging his right-rear suspension on the opening stage.

Reigning P-WRC champion Armindo Aruajo (Mitubishi) leads the conventional Group N cars, with New Zealander Haydon Paddon pushing his Pirelli Star Driver Lancer into an impressive second place early in the event. Top Swede Patrik Flodin was also in close attendance in his Subaru.

The opening morning's competition was temporarily halted when J-WRC ace Kevin Abbring crashed his Renault off the road. The Dutch Clio was reported to have to have rolled out of the first stage this morning, with both Abbring and his co-driver emerging unscathed.

Thierry Neuville, winner of the previous J-WRC round in Bulgaria, predicted a strong challenge from Abbring's team-mate Hans Weijs Jr in Germany, and so it transpired as Weijs' Citroen posted fastest time on SS2, taking six seconds out of Neuville.

-source: wrc

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Series WRC
Teams Citroën World Rally Team