Today's first leg of the Tour de Corse, the French round of the World Rally Championship comprised two loops of three special stages - covering around a hundred kilometres - to be run twice on the heights of the Sagone bay . Tonight team mates...
Today's first leg of the Tour de Corse, the French round of the World Rally Championship comprised two loops of three special stages - covering around a hundred kilometres - to be run twice on the heights of the Sagone bay .
Tonight team mates Sébastien Loeb and Daniel Elena are leading by a whisker, while Carlos Sainz and Marc Marti lie fourth, Colin McRae - Derek Ringer seventh and French crew Philippe Bugalski - Jean Paul Chiaroni tenth.
The Citroën team started well with Carlos Sainz setting fastest time on stage 1 "Cargese - Paomia". Actually the Spaniard was one of the few drivers who knew this special stage as it has not figured in the Tour de Corse route since 1997. Carlos admitted using his "old" pacenotes which he "deeply modified during the recce because he couldn't recognise everything".
Sébastien Loeb entered the battle cautiously :"The first stage was very narrow, I wasn't feeling 100% confident and I was a bit tense, so I didn't want to make a mistake." Seb felt reassured when posting the fastest time on stage 2 "Pont du Liamone", before he encountered slight oversteering problems like his Spanish team-mate, on stage 3. Colin McRae experienced brake problems (blocking at the rear), and Philippe Bugalski suffered throttle problems throughout the first loop.
These problems were quickly solved at the midday service while Carlos and Sébastien fine-tuned their Xsaras' settings and chose harder compound tyres for the second group of stages.
Sébastien took the lead after Markko Märtin spun on stage 4, but was not entirely convinced by his choice :"I like the way the car handles and the way the tyres allow me to corner really hard but I'm not sure whether it will lead to setting the fastest times".
Carlos Sainz was satisfied with his Michelins but found his "Xsara slightly unstable".
Colin McRae and Philippe Bugalski stayed with the same rubber for the second loop.
Philippe said : "The throttle problem is solved, and we really enjoyed the first and the third stage, despite hitting a bank there. The impact broke a rim and caused a puncture. The ATS mousse worked perfectly and we only lost a few seconds."
Team boss Guy Fréquelin was happy with the start of "his" four cars. Traditionnally cautious, Citroën's Sport director was even more so tonight : "Sébastien is leading and his three team-mates lie in the top ten. However there are six cars covered by only twenty seconds in the classification. Tomorrow's leg comprises twice as many kilometres as today, and it seems that rain is expected. We'll have to play well."