The Xsaras in the points After a first leg that turned out to be as difficult as everyone had expected, Carlos Sainz/Marc Marti and SÃ©bastien Loeb/Daniel Elena are currently lying in fifth and seventh positions. A provisional classification, ...
The Xsaras in the points
After a first leg that turned out to be as difficult as everyone had expected, Carlos Sainz/Marc Marti and Sébastien Loeb/Daniel Elena are currently lying in fifth and seventh positions. A provisional classification, which both the Citroën team and the drivers intend to improve, during tomorrow's long day of competition.
As expected, the race started off this morning at a frantic pace, under the impulse of the Finnish drivers, who appeared to wish to solve a matter of national supremacy. It was necessary to wait until the sixth stage, Ruuhimäki, to see an average speed under 120 km/h ! This turned out to be the only time today, with the exception of the Killeri Super Special (SS10).
Opening the road, Sébastien Loeb had to pay, as usual, the dividend which goes with this position, allotted to the championship leader. There are two main aspects to this role of an 'opener'. First of all, the 'sweeping' role, which was difficult in stages such as Kuohu (SS1) or Lankamaa (SS4), but much less elsewhere. However, Seb, driving at the front in Finland for the first time, found the other aspect much more annoying : "I was coming, at high speed, onto a 'virgin' road, on which there was no sign of the trajectory and no signs of braking. And I could see that I was letting precious seconds slip away..."
Fourth on the road and less penalised, Carlos Sainz was not totally satisfied either. Like his young team-mate, the Spanish driver wanted to work on the behaviour of the Xsara, to obtain an even more successful adaptation of the car to the characteristics of the Finnish terrain. From the end of the first loop of special stages, the technical team tried to work towards this aim. To validate the work that had been accomplished, everyone was waiting impatiently for the 'sweeping' sequence to finish, and to return, from SS7 onwards, to known territory.
It was then noticeable that the Xsaras were climbing up the classification sheets. According to Carlos Sainz, more work was needed : "It was not an easy day. We need to work towards a car that is secure laterally, with perfect balance, which will give us total confidence. This confidence is "compulsory" for this rally, because we are driving at such high speeds all the time !"
" This evening, I can't say that I am in the sort of position I dreamed of," Sébastien Loeb said. "Starting first on the road was not an advantage. However, the gap is not solely due to my road position. I pushed really hard, but the times did not come. I worked hard on improving the settings of my Xsara, and I think I am going in the right direction. Tomorrow, I won't be opening the road, and I will have markers to follow. There is still a long way to go, and I fully intend to make the most of the remaining special stages to improve my classification as much as possible."