Two Xsaras on the podium Still running close together, the two Xsara WRCs driven by SÃ©bastien Loeb/Daniel Elena and Carlos Sainz/Marc Marti moved up a notch during the second leg. This evening, they are occupying two steps of the ...
Two Xsaras on the podium
Still running close together, the two Xsara WRCs driven by Sébastien Loeb/Daniel Elena and Carlos Sainz/Marc Marti moved up a notch during the second leg. This evening, they are occupying two steps of the provisional podium. A situation which suits team boss Guy Fréquelin perfectly.
Present on all the special stages, Citroën Sport's director was able to note that today's special stages were extremely similar to those seen yesterday : "It is a difficult route because it is so narrow. The verges are full of menacing rocks, meaning that the drivers are forced to keep on the road and cannot express themselves freely. As for the ground, it is mainly sandy, but there is a lot of loose gravel, a thick layer to be swept away, through which they have to try and find as much grip as they can. This terrain is really complicated..."
Sébastien Loeb started the day with Marcus Grönholm in his sights, and with the confirmed intention to try to claim second place from the Finnish driver. The match between them, which promised to be thrilling, was cut short in 'Tandalo' (SS9), a special stage which Marcus finished with a significant delay. After that, Seb did not need to increase the pace he had chosen, and he concentrated on managing the terrain as best he could : "You have to be very careful not to make any mistakes. I think that the best tactics are to drive at the sort of pace I chose. I will continue in the same way tomorrow. We should not forget that there are still nearly eighty kilometres, to be completed, without any service.."
If Sébastien saw his direct rival quickly neutralised, Carlos Sainz was able to fight with Markko Märtin all day. It was far from over, as the leading margin of the Madrid-based driver over the Estonian is of just 2.9 seconds : "The special stages were slightly faster than those of yesterday. Physically, I was not 100% as I am suffering from a cold, but it did not really bother me. While searching for maximum drive and grip, we chose harder suspensions for the second time through the stages, and opted for harder tyres because of the higher temperatures. But I am not totally convinced it was the right solution! Even though the first time through 'swept' the route, the grip is low and the ideal suspension/tyre compromise has still eluded us. We will continue to work on this, and I hope that the options proposed for tomorrow will allow us to resist Markko Märtin... "
The final day of the rally which has replaced the Sanremo is divided up in an unusual way. The two times through the three stages are not separated by a stop at the service park, as is usual, nor even by a visit to a " Remote Tyre Fitting Zone " - as happened in Germany. The drivers and their cars will only be allowed a fifteen minute regrouping area, a zone considered to be parc fermé, where any service on the cars is forbidden. Reliability could be the key to the final day...