Citroen turns on the heat Sebastien Loeb, Daniel Elena and their Citroen C4 WRC profited from the very hot second day of the Rally d'Italia-Sardegna to extend their lead at the top of the leaderboard, while Dani Sordo and Marc Marti put in an ...
Citroen turns on the heat
Sebastien Loeb, Daniel Elena and their Citroen C4 WRC profited from the very hot second day of the Rally d'Italia-Sardegna to extend their lead at the top of the leaderboard, while Dani Sordo and Marc Marti put in an equally polished performance with the second Citroen to end Leg 2 in 4th place.
The menu of the second day of Round 6 of this year's World Rally Championship featured two identical loops of 71.36km each. Like yesterday, there were again plenty of narrow portions and hazards but the going was also much faster and wider in places, and both Seb and Dani profited from the slightly different conditions as well their more favourable road order to turn on the heat...
Their respective objectives may not have been the same but they set out to achieve them with exactly the same panache. In his bid to pull further clear of his principal chaser, the reigning World Champion put in a splendid performance over the first loop's three stages. "I didn't want him to think he could catch us," beamed Seb, "and everything went to plan. The C4 performed immaculately, our choice of BFGoodrich tyres was spot on and I didn't make any mistakes. We just had one big scare when we narrowly missed hitting the spare wheel that had come off Marcus Gronholm's car and which was lying dangerously in the middle of the road. I hesitated and finally decided to take the risk-free option of braking and steering round the obstacle, but if I had hit it the consequences could have been very serious. Our fastest times on S S7 and SS8 and the problems encountered by Marcus on SS9 enabled us to double our lead. The important thing now will be to stay focused tomorrow in order to keep our lead all the way to the finish."
Dani faced the double challenge of wanting to catch the driver ahead of him while at the same time warding off the assault of the one in his wake. "The set-up of my C4 really suited today's stages which were faster and wider and much more to my liking than Friday's narrower tests," enthused the young Spaniard during the lunchtime break. "I succeeded in pushing hard and set some quick times that were either close or equal to the faster drivers. That's very encouraging for me and I have every intention of fighting for 4th place..."
Seb's three consecutive fastest times and Dani's performance left Guy Frequelin in a positive frame of mind at the end of the morning's run: "Both crews got off to a great start today. Seb has pulled further clear at the top and Dani continues to improve on the loose. This afternoon's stages will be rougher though, and anything can still happen, so I prefer to remain cautious for the moment."
With the halfway point now behind him, Dani remained focused on his target. Gradually upping his pace, he profited from SS10 to reduce the gap to just 16.4s. In the following test (SS11), he moved a further 7s closer before assertively moving into 4th place after the day's final stage. "We have continued to fine-tune the set-up of my Citroen C4 and I had an excellent feeling with the car this afternoon. I continued to push hard and I'm delighted to have achieved my objective. It was close, and the rally's not yet over, so my intention is now to defend my position."
Meanwhile, out in front, Sebastien was busy basing his pace on that of his rival: "It's not up to me to push, nor to take risks. I tried to drive quickly to remain concentrated while at the same time trying not to make any mistakes. The last leg stages are new and short, but there won't be a chance to service so we will tackle them cautiously so as not to compromise our chances of winning."
The combination of Sebastien's lead and Dani's run today put a broad smile on Guy Frequelin's face at the end-of-leg service: "With a total of 143km of stages to cover, today's leg was far from easy. Even so, Seb managed to increase his lead before controlling from in front. He didn't put a foot wrong and his Citroen C4 ran like clockwork . Dani Sordo carried on his good run of yesterday afternoon. He was concentrated, quick and consistent and managed to successfully challenge for 4th place. We mustn't underestimate the final leg however. With a cushion of 36.5s, Seb will need to keep a clear head and Dani will need to continue to push."