Day 2: en route for a showdown on the Whaanga Coast The second day of the 2008 Rally New Zealand saw everyone at Citroen Total put in a masterful performance that has put the team in a strong position going into Sunday's leg. Sebastien Loeb and...
Day 2: en route for a showdown on the Whaanga Coast
The second day of the 2008 Rally New Zealand saw everyone at Citroen Total put in a masterful performance that has put the team in a strong position going into Sunday's leg. Sebastien Loeb and Daniel Elena are overnight third with their C4 WRC, just 13.3 seconds behind the leader, while Dani Sordo/Marc Marti follow in fourth place, a little more than 15s off the lead. Both Citroen crews are now looking forward to tomorrow's loop in the Whaanga Coast region to try to pull off a top result.
With 130km of competitive action to the northeast of Hamilton on the menu, today's leg featured a unique format of five stages to be covered just once each, plus the weekend's second attempt at the Mystery Creek super-special.
"With an overnight deficit of 28s to make up, we had no other choice than to push as hard as we could," was Sebastien Loeb enthusiastic response to all those who asked him this morning how he saw the second leg unfolding. The reigning World Champions went on to apply that plan to the letter as they set off in hot pursuit of first place. They kicked off the day by clawing back 7.7s over the celebrated Port Waikato test (SS6) and then shaved a further 3.1s off the leader's advantage on Possum (SS7), the weekend's northernmost test. Next up was the awesome Franklin stage (ES8/31.58km) which saw Seb and Daniel pull back 10.4s of the remaining deficit of 17.2s, while the lunchtime visit to the super-special saw them reduce the gap to 5.3s by the midday break.
"Running second on the road is effectively better than being first through the stages," recognised Sebastien after the day's first group of stages. "Even so, we still had to push extremely hard and not make any mistakes. Thankfully, our car performed faultlessly and we managed to make up much of the gap. We will see how things pan out over this afternoon's two long stages which could well be decisive."
Dani Sordo and Marc Marti were all smiles after the morning's run. "Running fourth on the road today was an advantage," commented the 2005 Junior World Champion. "It was nice to see my times get closer to those of the front-runners. The gap is coming down, although I continue to lose time on the slower, more technical portions because I still lack experience of this event. However, if I compare my times with those I posted here in 2007, I can see that I am improving, and that is very encouraging."
As anticipated, the afternoon's loop turned out to be very important. "We managed to move ahead after SS10," reported Sebastien. "However, along with the team, we worked out that 4.2s wasn't a big enough lead to take into the finalday if we were first on the road. We regretfully let our rivals pass us again, although that's not really my vision of rallying which should be about driving faster than the others and not having to fift: There are nonetheless rules we have to exploit. We'll see tomorrow whether we made the right choice." Dani and Marc profited from the jostling for position going on between the three crews ahead of them on the leaderboard to consolidate their grip on fourth place and close in on the podium. "This afternoon's two stages went very well for us," beamed Dani. "We really enjoyed ourselves after making some small modifications to the set-up of our C4. I pushed as hard as I could and that paid off. We will now keep a close eye on the scrap that's going on in front of us. It could all work out in our favour..."
"Today's leg went well for us, and Sebastien and Daniel succeeded in moving ahead with one stage to go," observed Olivier Quesnel. "However, after concerting with Seb, we decided we would have the best chance of winning if they weren't first on the road tomorrow. Dani and Marc had a very positive day and posted some outstanding times this afternoon. They're also in a good position to score welcome points for Citroen. Tomorrow's action takes place to a magnificent backdrop and it will be up to us to do all we can to score a top result..."