Day 2: Four stages separate Citroen from the crown
The weather promised to stay bright and sunny as crews set out this morning for Leg 2 of the Wales Rally GB, the final round of the 2008 World Rally Championship. Sebastien Loeb and Daniel Elena approached the day intent on attacking, while at the same time keeping a close on eye on the way the situation unfolded, their objective being to both consolidate their overnight second place and keep the provisional leaders under as much pressure as possible. Dani Sordo and Marc Marti, who tackled the day in a similar frame of mind, also produced a solid run to complete Saturday's action in third place. With both its C4 WRCs on tonight's podium, Citroen Total appears to be in a strong position to perhaps collect its fourth Manufacturers' world title when the event finishes on Sunday.
With a total of 129.1km of competitive action on the programme, the second day of the rally was by far the longest. The menu featured two attempts at three classic stages Resolfen, Halfway and Crychan (the latter two run in the opposite direction to 2007 and nobody was taking anything for granted...
Both Citroen crews were perfectly aware that the twisty forest tracks to the east of Resolfen, near Neath, and in Mynydd Epynt, north of Llandovery, were likely to be highly treacherous. "The conditions were just as delicate as yesterday's, in fact," observed Sebastien Loeb at the lunchtime break. "During recce, I found Resolfen to be the most difficult stage to note and I think that showed today. It wasn't as icy, but we ran the risk of starting to feel too confident and consequently being caught out. I drove as fast as I dared in order to maintain our chances of scoring as many points as possible for Citroen, but we also did all we could to put pressure on the leaders. Striking the right balance between the two wasn't easy. That said, we are just 8.9 seconds behind them at the halfway point, so it's all looking quite promising..."
The same satisfaction could be detected in Dani Sordo's comments as the Citroen Sport mechanics profited from the 30-minute halt to work on his car. "I'm quite pleased with my morning," smiled the young Spaniard. "Marc and I posted two fastest times, we didn't make any mistakes and we've gained three places. We appear to have done a good job during recce noting all the different hazards, and that has proved quite valuable despite today's different weather. I haven't lost sight of our objective, though, and I am fully focused on the Manufacturers' points we need to score this weekend"
The 2008 World Champions* kept to the same approach during the afternoon and returned to Swansea for the end-of-day service halt just 7.3s off the lead. "Our car continued to be nicely balanced this afternoon, so we were able to keep up a quick pace," reported Seb. "The ground wasn't so frozen, but that made it all the more difficult to spot where the lingering patches of ice were. We tried to take things cautiously, while at the same time keeping an eye on the times of our rivals. I think we're in a good position going into the last leg..."
"I am very pleased with our day," admitted Dani. "My car handled perfectly and I felt very confident, especially after we succeeded in moving into third place this morning. This afternoon, we tried to keep to a speed which would enable us to defend our footing on the podium with taking any risks. I was happy with my driving, but we will need to carry on in the same vein tomorrow if we want to make sure that the 2008 Manufacturers' title goes to Citroen."
"It was another complex day, but both our crews managed the situation superbly again," analysed Olivier Quesnel. "Seb and Daniel put in another masterful run and found a pace that kept the leaders under pressure without running the risk of throwing away their chances of scoring what promise to be valuable points for Citroen. Running sixth on the road, Dani and Marc made the most of the fact that the conditions were less slippery for them, while at the same underlining the progress they have made on the loose this season. Our two C4s have run like clockwork, too, and both cars are on the overnight podium, so our chances of clinching a second title this year are looking quite promising. Everyone Citroen Sport is extremely fired up but we still need to be very cautious. There are another four stages totalling 96.21km to come before we can be certain of the outcome..."