Carlos Sainz - Marc Marti, Colin McRae - Derek Ringer and Sébastien Loeb - Daniel Elena returned to Karlstad tonight after a tough first leg.
However, their positions in this rally do not show Citroën's true potential. After a fantastic one - two - three in Monte Carlo, the Xsaras and their crews would certainly not have lost their velocity within two weeks.
This morning young French Sébastien took his very first stage win on a loose surface by setting the fastest time on the opening stage "Sagen" (14,17 km). The Citroën Total team had a great start driving through the stage on compacted snow, but experienced more difficult conditions on the stages following.
During the first leg, the Citroën crews who started first, second and third respectively, cleaned the thin layer of snow and left ice for their followers, acting as real 'sweepers'.
"With this weather we are paying for our results in Monte Carlo, declared Guy Fréquelin. But it's the rule."
"There is not that much snow", explained Sébastien,"but still enough to make us lose grip. We constantly have to correct our line, and it's costing us a lot of time."
Colin McRae spun in SS2, and again in SS4 and 5. "The conditions are not that difficult", analysed the Scot. "But the layer of snow is sufficient to make us loose time. Given the gap with the leaders now, we will do our best to reduce it. There are points to catch"
Carlos Sainz was feeling a bit mixed up : "We spun at very high speed in SS3. However I am thinking about the time we are loosing with the starting order. I hope our position tonight will not penalize us tomorrow."
"I'm happy that I proved that in similar road conditions, my times equalled the fastest" concluded Seb. "It's a pity that we could not really underline the qualities of the Xsara and the excellent preparation work we have done."
Telefónica Movistar, Michelin, Magneti-Marelli, OZ, AIS and Citroën Financement are the partners of Team Citroën-Total in the World Rally Championship.