Loeb and Citroen sweep through Leg 1 The first full day of competition of the 2008 Rally of Turkey turned out to be extremely long and punishing, but Sebastien Loeb/Daniel Elena checked into this evening's service park in Kemer on top of the ...
Loeb and Citroen sweep through Leg 1
The first full day of competition of the 2008 Rally of Turkey turned out to be extremely long and punishing, but Sebastien Loeb/Daniel Elena checked into this evening's service park in Kemer on top of the provisional standings after magnificently coping with the handicap of having to run first on the road throughout the day. Dani Sordo/Marc Marti also put in a good run and follow in eighth place with the second Citroen Total C4 WRC.
The first leg of the Turkish round, which is this year celebrating its return to the World Rally Championship calendar after a year's absence, kicked off on Thursday evening with a super- special in Antalya. Today's programme marked a break with the WRC norm, however, with a format of eight stages, two of which were contested only once. True to its reputation, the event turned out to be particularly tough on the cars, Pirelli tyres and crews alike. Sebastien Loeb and Daniel Elena were quickest over yesterday evening's spectator stage and never lost sight of their objective today: "Our aim was to drop as little time as possible," explained Seb who calculated that the most ground he could afford to lose on Day 1 was about a minute. "With road-sweeping duty to do on five of today's stages, plus three repeated stages on which there was a good chance that the conditions wouldn't be ideal that's what I reckoned we were likely to lose." To keep the gap as small as possible, there was really just one option: "Maximum attack," as Daniel Elena put it!
That tactic effectively paid dividends since the N1 Citroen C4 WRC figured in fifth place after the first loop, just 10.2 seconds behind the leader. The second pass over the same three tests saw the Citroen pair drop just 3.3 additional seconds, which enabled Sebastien and Daniel to gain two places. The day's last two stages saw Seb take command. "Our C4 was quick, reliable and its set-up was perfectly suited to the conditions and we were able to make the most of the little grip that was available," he reported. "We are now in the lead, and tomorrow's leg is shorter, so being first on the road should be less of a disadvantage. We won't have so much 'road-sweeping' to do. It promises to be very close, but we will do everything in our power to defend our lead!"
Dani Sordo and Marc Marti had a mixed day in the second Citroen Sport C4 WRC. "On the one hand, we had a good position on the road," pointed out Dani. "Our car handled perfectly, too, and we also had good notes. We span on SS4, though, and then we swiped a rock on SS7 which bent a tie-rod and lost us a few seconds. That said, the gaps aren't all that big tonight, and running eighth on the road tomorrow should enable us to benefit from an ideal surface to try to close on the competitors ahead of us on tonight's leaderboard."
"It's been one of the most nerve-racking days of the season," commented Olivier Quesnel, "but Sebastien and Daniel came through all the potential pitfalls remarkably. That's put them in the overnight lead, although that also means they will be sweeping a clean line for their rivals again tomorrow. That said, things haven't gone too badly for them so far! I have every confidence in the potential of their C4 WRC and in their ability to put in a strong second day. Dani and Marc will also be looking to profit from Saturday's stages to move up the order."