At the end of the opening day of the Rally Japan, the Citroen Junior Team has both of its C4 WRCs in the top 10. After an excellent start to the rally, Dani Sordo and Diego Vallejo are fifth overall, just over 30 seconds behind the leaders. Kimi Raikkonen and Kaj Lindstrom claim 10th, having made solid progress all day.
After some great performances on Thursday's first two runs over the superspecial stages, Dani Sordo got stuck straight into the fight for first place throughout the opening loop of stages that took place this morning to the south of the island of Hokkaido. "The roads are very nice, with some extremely quick and narrow sections," he reported. "I experienced a little bit of understeer on the car and so I suddenly found myself losing some time in the twisty bits of the following stage. The second loop is not going to be any easier, but we need to keep on pushing hard to stay with the lead group."
After more than a month without driving the Citroen C4 WRC on gravel, Kimi Raikkonen got off to a cautious start. With the help of the Citroen Junior Team technicians, the Finn tried to find various different set-ups that would help him to make progress.
His engineer, Cedric Mazenq, explained: "During midday service, we changed the front differential, adjusted the ride height, modified the spring rates and altered a few other settings. In the afternoon, Kimi felt a lot more comfortable. As there was no specific test for this rally, we needed this half-day to find some settings best suited to his driving style."
Kimi Raikkonen managed to decrease his gap to the frontrunners over the second passage through the stages in the afternoon. In particular, he improved his time over the 27.76-kilometre Sikot stage by a whole 28.2 seconds. "The team did a great job at service," commented Kimi. "I still have a lot to learn before I can go quickly on these roads. The progress we have made this afternoon means that we will be able to start the second day with confidence."
Dani Sordo was the victim of an oil leak before the start of Iwanke 2 (SS6). He nonetheless managed to end the day in fifth place, just 36.5 seconds behind the leader. "We tried to lose as little time as possible but the car was less efficient," he recounted. "I'm very happy that we were able to get back to service in Sapporo, and looking at our overall classification, it didn't go so badly for us in the end. Tomorrow we'll have a good start position, so our plan is to attack!"
Dani's engineer, Clement Mitchell, explained: "All the oil in the gearbox gradually leaked out. This meant that the front differential did not work as well as it should. But by adapting his driving style, Dani was able to deal with the resulting understeer very well. We thought that he would lose more time than he actually did."
Team manager Benoit Nogier concluded: "The team did a really good job on Kimi's C4 WRC. He was able to show his capabilities much better on the second loop of stages, with a car that gave him more confidence. On the other hand, we are sorry to have experienced a technical problem on Dani's car. He showed the strength of his character by the way that he dealt with this complicated situation. Between each stage, he tried to fix the problem. His positive attitude gives us reason to feel optimistic. Dani will have a good road position tomorrow, and I really hope that we will be seeing him on the podium by Sunday afternoon!"