Three Xsaras in the points
Xevi Pons/Carlos Del Barrio occupy sixth place tonight, leading the Citroen Xsara line-up. Colin McRae/Nicky Grist are immediately behind them, while Dani Sordo/Marc Marti have climbed back into the top 10. All three Xsaras are in a position to score driver or manufacturer points, and the crews will be trying to improve their totals on the short final leg....
As was the case yesterday, today's action was split into three loops of stages. Once more, the weather conditions made each loop distinctly different. During the first loop, which took in the Kemer (20.50km) and Silyon (27.36km) stages, there was no rain but the roads were still damp as well as muddy in the first half of Kemer. The second loop was virtually dry. By contrast, the final loop was run in appalling conditions : particularly in Chimera (16.91km) and Phaselis (29.98km). The crews had to contend with rain, standing water, mud and even a hailstorm at the end of Chimera !
All three Xsaras got through the leg without hitting major problems. Xevi Pons was quick and consistent throughout the day to hold fifth place until he experienced an intercom problem on Chimera (SS14). "Carlos [Del Barrio] was getting fainter and fainter on my intercom." he recounted. " We finally had to connect our headsets to the plug we use for the road sections. The problem was that on this channel we could also hear the dialogue between our team and the other two cars... It's obviously frustrating to lose a place to a banal incident like that, but that only makes us all the more eager to get it back..."
On the same stage, Dani Sordo hit a rock with his right rear wheel. The rim broke and the mousse was unable to keep the tyre up, forcing the reigning Junior World Champion to finish the stage on a flat tyre and drop 50 seconds. Dani took immediate revenge on the following test, Phaselis 2 (SS15), by setting his first ever fastest time on gravel in a World Rally Car.
"With our '8' compound BFGoodrich tyres cut appropriately, we had an incredible amount of grip," he said. "I was told to be wary of the lack of grip in Chimera but after a few corners I felt very confident. I could not avoid the rock that caused our puncture : I saw it at the last minute and it was right on the racing line. I'm not as high up the order as I would have liked, but there are many positive aspects to this rally : in particular my excellent feeling with the Xsara and the quality of our notes. I set two fourth-fastest times on stages I didn't know and I took my first stage win on gravel. It's been a good day !"
Colin McRae struggled to be as positive at the overnight halt. "It's been a frustrating and difficult day," he said. "I've not enjoyed it, what with the hail in Chimera that would have made even walking difficult, and that horrible stage where Dani set an excellent fastest time. It's the sort of thing that you just want to get over with. Tomorrow I'm hoping for normal conditions, so that we can up our pace and end the rally on a positive note."
-credit: kronos racing