Sordo and Pons fight back
Dani Sordo/Marc Marti and Xevi Pons/Carlos Del Barrio end the day separated by less than a second, in fifth and sixth places respectively. Both drivers overcame small setbacks at the very start of the rally to fight their way back up the order and this will continue to be their mission over the remainder of the event.
The crews had to cope with leaden skies and damp road surfaces which led to muddy and extremely slippery conditions. The day's action consisted of two loops of three stages to the south east, crossing the Neath valley (`Cwv Nedd' in Welsh). The 140 competitive kilometres that made up the leg constituted the bulk of the rally's total distance.
Both Dani Sordo and Xevi Pons had to deal with some minor problems at the start. The reigning Junior World Rally Champion could not avoid a spin in the first few corners of the opening stage, Port Talbot (17.41 km). The incident caused him to lose his Xsara's rear bumper, and this early fright meant that Dani was unable to find a perfect rhythm over the remainder of the test. By the end of the stage, the Spaniard was 13th overall. As he fought his way back up the order, he had to contend with a couple of punctures that were happily without consequence thanks to the anti-deflation mousse inside the tyre. He also lost another chunk of his bumper when the car got slightly too sideways at one point. "I didn't really feel anything," said Sordo. "When you're driving on these Welsh stages for the first time, which have so little grip and change constantly, it's always good to get to the second run through them. Only then do you have a chance to drive them properly, after correcting your notes at high speed the first time through. I've got Jari-Matti Latvala less than 20 seconds in front of me and he is a tempting target. I've got to try : particularly as Xevi is pushing so hard behind me."
The problem for Xevi Pons came on Resolfen (SS2, 24.49km). About halfway through the stage, the Spaniard slithered harmlessly into a ditch. He managed to extricate himself with no lasting consequences other than a slip from fifth to 11th place. Just like his team mate, Xevi was forced to fight back. His charge was delayed by a front-right puncture on SS5, which was probably caused by an impact with a rock. For once the anti-deflation mousse did not work, contrary to what happens 99% of the time. Xevi reported: "In the final part of the stage, on a long straight, I felt a vibration that got gradually worse. I ended the stage on the wheel rim. It was nothing serious : only a front wing was damaged. What I really enjoyed though was the excellent balance of my Xsara in the afternoon, after we made a few changes at midday service. There was a big difference compared to the first loop, and it was really easy to drive. I feel a lot more confident now, and I think it's perfectly possible for me to improve my position tomorrow..."