Loeb, Elena and Citroën show who are the bosses!
Sébastien Loeb and Daniel Elena, unbeaten in this event since 2002, soon began to tighten their stranglehold on Rally Germany. The crew in the no. 1 Citroën DS3 WRC went into the lead after avoiding all the traps on the first day’s racing. Sébastien Ogier and Julian Ingrassia are only 7.4s behind their team-mates in the Citroën Total World Rally Team: they too put on a first-class show.
The first leg of Rally Germany, run in the Mosell vineyards, consisted of two loops of three stages. With a few minutes to go to the start, thick clouds formed over the Triers service park reminding the teams of the uncertainty surrounding the weather. The Citroën Total World Rally Team crews guided by the forecast supplied by Météo France chose a mixture of tyres consisting of four soft and two hard Michelins.
For SS1, which was run in dry conditions, the DS3 WRCs put soft rubber on the right-hand side and hard tyres on the left. Thanks to this daring and original choice, Sébastien Ogier and Sébastien Loeb lost only a few tenths of a second to Latvala, who opted for four hard tyres. SS2, was completely soaked by a shower that fell just before the start. The DS3 WRCs on soft rubber opened up a gap over their rivals. Ogier set the quickest time and took the lead in the rally by 1.3s from Loeb. Hirvonen in third was already over 30s in arrears! The loop finished with a dry stage during which the Citroën drivers stayed on soft rubber. Loeb, who went pedal to the metal, set his first fastest time of the event and dislodged his team-mate from first place.
“We opted for safety as we knew that there was a strong likelihood of rain,” explained Loeb when he arrived back in the service park. “Starting on hard tyres meant that there was a lot more to lose than with our selection. Our tyre choice in SS1 surprised our rivals. It’s a solution we tested and we found that it was a good one for this type of situation. All I had to do was to remember that the car did not behave in the same fashion when turning right or left.”
I’m happy with the way we’ve started the rally.
“I’m happy with the way we’ve started the rally. I feel good in the car but it really wasn’t easy to handle in SS1. I made a few mistakes. But we made the right choice and this loop has helped us make the break,” concluded Ogier.
The sun shone in the afternoon loop and this enabled the crews to do battle on a level playing field in terms of tyres. Ogier showed his improvement on tarmac with the best time in SS4, which brought him to within 9/10s of the leader. Loeb hit back immediately by setting the next two quickest times. At the end of the leg the two Works Citroën DS3 WRCs arrived in the service park in the first two places over a minute in front of the third-placed car.
“It’s an ideal situation to tackle the rest of the rally, » summed up Olivier Quesnel, the Citroën Racing Team Principal.”We still have two long days in front of us and the weather may produce a few unexpected surprises. Our crews mustn’t let down their guard in order to transform this excellent first day’s result into another double.”