Sebastien Loeb takes charge Sebastien Loeb's and Daniel Elena's aim of winning in Alsace to add more world titles to their already-impressive set of results got off to a perfect start on the first day of the new Alsace-based Rally France. The ...
Sebastien Loeb takes charge
Sebastien Loeb's and Daniel Elena's aim of winning in Alsace to add more world titles to their already-impressive set of results got off to a perfect start on the first day of the new Alsace-based Rally France. The driver of the no.1 Citroen C4 WRC set five fastest times, and is lying first over twenty seconds in front of the other Citroen Total World Rally Team car shared by Dani Sordo and Diego Vallejo.
The enthusiasm generated by the organization of Rally France in Alsace is exceptional. Despite the rain, tens of thousands of spectators turned up at Place Kleber for the starting ceremony on Thursday evening. This morning, the huge influx of spectators obliged Race Control to put back the start of SS2. The whole region was in a state of passion whether on the stages or in the remote service park in Mulhouse to which the crowd flocked en masse.
Local hero, Sebastien Loeb did not disappoint. He took the lead right from the very first split, and in the kilometers that followed, the lad from Haguenau dominated his rivals in the first loop bringing the crews from Colmar to Mulhouse.
Even so the reigning world champion did not seem all that happy at the end of SS1, (Hohlandsbourg): "With a shakedown that was as unrepresentative as yesterday's, I set off fairly cautiously. It took me a little while to get into the rhythm."
In the first four stages, Hohlandsbourg, Firstplan, Vallee de Munster and Grand Ballon, Loeb set the fastest times and arrived in Mulhouse for the midday remote service halt leading the rally. "There's such fervour," said an astonished Frenchman as the cars were surrounded by fans rooting for the Citroen driver. "I admit I don't pay attention when I'm driving the stage, but at the finishes, on the road sections and in the service park, you really feel the spectators' enthusiasm."
Loeb consolidated his position in the afternoon, and finished the first day with a 20-second lead over his team-mate, Dani Sordo: "The surface was radically different. In some sections, you just had to really pussyfoot it. The start of the rally went off perfectly but there are many traps and there's still a long way to go, so you can't afford to relax your concentration for a second."
Sordo was fifth on the road today and he had to cope with roads dirtied by the passage of the cars that started in front of him: "There was mud dragged onto the apexes of corners where the road was already wet. In these conditions you have to be very careful not to make the slightest error, and to lose the least amount of time possible. We're already twenty seconds behind. This afternoon we'll have to try and fight our way back up the time sheets."
Sordo was the quickest driver overall in the second loop with exceptional performances in the quickest sections. These enabled him to overtake Petter Solberg and then Sebastien Ogier to go into second place at the end of SS7 (Valee de Munster 2). Tomorrow, he will have a better starting position and will certainly be a redoubtable opponent!