WRC

Rally Sardinia: Citroen leg one summary

Sébastien Loeb firmly in command! It's never over until the finish line has been crossed, and that adage proved true once again today when Citroën's hopes of a close formation finish in Sardinia were dashed in a matter of seconds on SS5...

Sébastien Loeb firmly in command!

It's never over until the finish line has been crossed, and that adage proved true once again today when Citroën's hopes of a close formation finish in Sardinia were dashed in a matter of seconds on SS5 ('Crastazza 2'). Minutes previously, the team's two Xsara WRCs had held the top two positions, with Sébastien Loeb and Daniel Elena leading François Duval/Stéphane Prévot by 9.1s and everything seemed to be running smoothly.

Indeed, the end of SS5 saw Sébastien post his third best time of the day to strengthen his advantage at the top but unfortunately François Duval no longer followed in his wake. "I turned in a little too late over a crest noted '80 right'," explained the Belgian. "I went wide into the rocks which sent the car into a roll. I think we rolled twice and the car eventually came to a stop on its right side. It didn't take long to get it back on its wheels and get started again but we saw almost at once that we had lost the rear left wheel and we had to stop..." In accordance with the regulations, François was awarded the best time for the last two stages of the day (both posted by Seb) plus a 5-minute penalty... Following the car's return to the Olbia service park, the technical team immediately began working to get it back into a fit state for it to be able to re-start on Saturday morning...

Sébastien Loeb will start the second leg as provisional leader despite setting a relatively modest 9th fastest time on SS1 today. "It only took a couple of corners for me to realise that the suspension settings were a bit too soft since the rear had tended to float about too much. Also, in the trees, I was hampered by the dust thrown up by Petter [Solberg]. Between SS1 and SS2, I adjusted the front and rear shock absorber settings by a number of clicks and immediately knew on SS2 that we had gone in the right direction, as revealed by our splits and fastest times over the last two stages of the first loop!" The Xsara finished this opening group of stages in front...

The day's second loop, which was identical to the first, saw crews run on a surface that had been swept clean but which had also cut up, while hot sunshine took temperatures close to the 30°C mark. Running on hard compound Michelin Z BTOs, Sébastien took it easy through 'Terranova 2' before going on to win the next two tests to increase his cushion over Petter Solberg. "My only problem was a slightly soft brake pedal. Despite taking it steadily over the rougher portions, I collected two punctures but our ATS mousse did its job perfectly and I didn't lose any time. It was a very good day in fact!"

Daniel Elena agreed with his driver, observing with a smile: "Last year, we finished the first leg 34.8s down on Petter. This evening he is 31.7s behind us. Thanks to the progress made by the Xsara and Michelin's tyres, we have succeeded in turning the tables, as was the case in New Zealand earlier this month. I know the finish is still some way off, but I can't help hoping this weekend ends as it did in Auckland..."

-citroen-

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About this article
Series WRC
Teams Citroën World Rally Team