SÃ©bastien Loeb/Daniel Elena, Carlos Sainz/Marc Marti and their respective Xsara WRCs completed the first full day of the 2005 Acropolis Rally, run in scorching sunshine, in 1st and 3rd places in Lamia this evening. With fastest times to its name...
Sébastien Loeb/Daniel Elena, Carlos Sainz/Marc Marti and their respective Xsara WRCs completed the first full day of the 2005 Acropolis Rally, run in scorching sunshine, in 1st and 3rd places in Lamia this evening. With fastest times to its name in four of the seven stages contested to date, Citroën has got its weekend in Greece off to a flying start.
Leg 1 began on Thursday evening with the super-special in the Olympic Stadium, Athens, an appetiser which took the form of a 2.4 km asphalt circuit and won by Sébastien Loeb in front of 70,000 spectators.
The first group of 'real' stages promised to be much more demanding however, especially for Seb whose position as leader in the provisional Drivers' championship meant he ran first on the road all day. "There have been rallies where this handicap has been lessened by damp conditions. But that can't happen everywhere, so it's only normal that I should the pay the price of being first on the road in dry weather from time to time. And I can tell you I was especially pampered today, especially first time through Rengini. I didn't feel 100% comfortable. I was unsure of both my set-up and my driving, but at the end of the day I think this was probably due to the stages themselves as much as anything. Happily, the end of Elatia-Zeli was clean and I was able to push hard, both times through. The first time so as not to lose too much ground and the second time through to take the lead. Tyre-wise, I think I made the right choice for both loops, with re-cut narrow tyres for the first run to cut through the top-coating of gravel, and then the wider option for the second pass. This didn't make much difference through the first two stages because there was still some lingering gravel, but they performed excellently in the longer, final stage."
Carlos Sainz ran in tenth position on the road today… "I obviously benefited from a cleaner surface. I tried to keep it very clean, taking extra care through the rougher portions. The balance of my Xsara suits me perfectly. It is more to my liking, more precise than in Turkey. I feel very confident. I used the narrow tyre for both loops and that proved perfect. I am obviously delighted to be in 3rd place this evening. It's a very good position for Citroën."
Driving one of the privately-entered Kronos-run cars, Manfred Stohl didn't get very far today. After an off three kilometres into SS2, he attempted to limp through the stage before finally deciding to park up so as not to cause excessive damage to his car. Xavier Pons is 13th overall this evening and absolutely thrilled with the Xsara: "I have never driven a car like it. It's fantastic, but I'm still finding out how it works! The brakes are really something else and I am not using them 100%. It's a car that needs you to take time to adapt. So I am more determined than ever to get in as many kilometres as possible, taking things one step at a time, progressing bit by bit and upping the pace gradually as I did today…"