Leader Loeb relieved to get to the end of day one Citroen driver Sebastien Loeb emerged from the end of the first day of Rally de France a relieved man. He leads, but it hasn't been easy for the local hero. After winning every stage through...
Leader Loeb relieved to get to the end of day one
Citroen driver Sebastien Loeb emerged from the end of the first day of Rally de France a relieved man. He leads, but it hasn't been easy for the local hero.
After winning every stage through the morning, Loeb found roads in a quite different state when he returned this afternoon. With the entire 67-car field having passed through, the corners were covered in mud and offering nothing like the grip they had on the first lap.
Despite the change in conditions, and the fact that he was only fastest on one of the afternoon's stages, Loeb still managed to stretch his lead by six seconds, to arrive back in Strasbourg with a 22.7-second advantage.
"I am glad to be out of that last stage," said the leader. "It was a good day, but the last stage was so tricky, it was very difficult. We had to be really careful, I think we lost 40 seconds, so if somebody coming from behind wants to push maybe they can take me. But I'm happy to be here."
The start of the last stage of the day was delayed by 58 minutes while the event organisers moved the vast number of spectators into safer areas.
The men on the move through the afternoon were Loeb's Citroen Total World Rally Team team-mate Dani Sordo and Ford's Jari-Matti Latvala.
Sordo was either fastest or second fastest through the first three stages of the afternoon to close on and pass Petter Solberg in SS6 and Sebastien Ogier in SS7. Having struggled through the morning, Sordo was much more upbeat at the day's end. "It's good," he said. "It's an interesting fight, very close. It was very difficult for the road position this morning, but tomorrow it should be better for me."
It was the same story for Latvala, who felt the narrower sections of today were suiting the Ford much more. "The car is working really well in the narrow and slippery sections," said Latvala, who put in a massive effort to beat everybody through the afternoon's first and last stages. "The last stage was so, so slippery," he said. "But it seemed to suit our car, the car is working really well in these conditions."
Latvala's reward for a stellar performance in the super-slippery stages was to move up to fourth, edging Petter Solberg by four seconds into the second day.
Latvala's team-mate Mikko Hirvonen's troubled day continued in the other factory Ford. He would end Friday close to two minutes off the lead, bouncing the car off the mountainside on the second run at the Grand Ballon test didn't help his cause much, damaging the wheel rims on the car. He was sixth on Friday night.
Skoda driver Eyvind Brynildsen remains out front in the Super 2000 WRC race, with Armindo Araujo (Mitsubishi) leading the Production battle and Citroen's Thierry Neuville comfortably ahead in the Juniors.