Leg 1: The two CitroÃ«n C4 WRCs lying in waiting After yesterday evening's super-special, the first of the 2007 Acropolis Rally's three legs continued today and produced a particularly fierce fight for top spot. SÃ©bastien Loeb and Daniel Elena...
Leg 1: The two Citroën C4 WRCs lying in waiting
After yesterday evening's super-special, the first of the 2007 Acropolis Rally's three legs continued today and produced a particularly fierce fight for top spot. Sébastien Loeb and Daniel Elena are currently 4th overall with their Citroën C4 WRC, while the second Citroën Sport of Dani Sordo and Marc Martí follows in sixth spot.
The first leg of the season's eighth round featured eight stages, including last night's short super-special at the Olympic Equestrian Centre's hippodrome in Athens. While both 'Shimatari' (SS2/6) and 'Thiva' (ES3/7) were expected to be relatively smooth, the 15.20km Agia Sotira test (SS4/8) was always going to put crews and cars alike to a truly punishing test.
But more than the rough nature of the stages, it was above all the lack of grip that upset Sébastien Loeb's morning run. "I didn't drive particularly well and the stages were covered in many places by a surprisingly thick top-coating of dust and gravel. When it was like that, we practically didn't have any grip at all," reported the three-time World Champion who also needed to find his marks again following the off that led to his retirement in Sardinia. "Given that I wasn't feeling totally confident, I didn't want to take any risks," he added. The set-up changes made by the Citroën Sport technical team to his Citroën C4 WRC during the lunchtime service failed to give total satisfaction, but the Frenchman did succeed in posting a fastest time at the end of the afternoon on SS8. "I still don't feel perfectly comfortable. We will need to further fine-tune the set-up but the gaps are quite small despite the complex day we have just been through. Nothing is by any means over yet and we will do our best to produce a good run on Leg 2 to try and reverse the trend..."
Continuing on their momentum after their strong showing in Sardinia, Dani Sordo and Marc Martí enjoyed another positive day today in Greece. "Everything went very well," smiled the Spaniard this evening. "We didn't have the slightest problem with our Citroën C4 which was very competitive throughout the day, both over the faster portions and also on the much rougher stuff. I am pleased with my day and I managed to stay concentrated and not make any mistakes. We succeeded in setting times on a par with drivers who are far more used to competing on gravel." Dani even posted a fastest time himself on the longest test of the day (SS7)! "We still need to be careful though because it can be so rough in places that anything can happen, either in our favour or against us," concluded the 2005 Junior World Champion.
Guy Fréquelin had good reason to be pleased with the job done by the Citroën Sport team today. "It's been a tough day but I think we came out of it quite well," he commented. "Sébastien had more road-sweeping to do this morning than expected and he also needed to get back into the swing after his accident in Sardinia which perhaps explains his spin on SS2. The combination of these two factors cost him a few valuable seconds. But Seb and Daniel recovered well and were able to profit from the set-up changes made to their Citroën C4 to make up some of the lost ground. Seb is this evening just 3.7s behind the overnight leader and is still in with a real chance of winning. Dani Sordo and Marc Martí were immediately on the same sort of pace they showed in Sardinia. I am pleased with Dani's performance which once again shows the progress he has made on gravel. With just 11.1 seconds covering the top six drivers this evening, the situation at the sharp end is very close, but there is still a very long way to go and tomorrow's stages promise to be very challenging, and perhaps even decisive."