WRC

Cyprus Rally: Citroen leg one summary

Typical Cyprus conditions Sebastien Loeb/Daniel Elena, 3rd, and Carlos Sainz/Marc Marti, 5th, remain very much in contention for a top result in Cyprus following an opening day packed with action and in total keeping with what crews have come to...

Typical Cyprus conditions

Sebastien Loeb/Daniel Elena, 3rd, and Carlos Sainz/Marc Marti, 5th, remain very much in contention for a top result in Cyprus following an opening day packed with action and in total keeping with what crews have come to expect of the Mediterranean island event, including sunshine, rocks, heat, slow stages, dust, incidents and drama...

The Cyprus Rally, the first of this year's sequence of three hot, rough rallies, has effectively lived every bit up to its reputation, prompting drivers to ask the usual questions: Just how hard can we push? What is the ideal pace to be sufficiently quick without compromising the performance, strength or reliability of the car?

The rally didn't get off to the best of starts for Sebastien Loeb when he dropped some 40 seconds to the leaders in ES1, the 38 km 'Lagoudera-Spilia' test. But when he was second fastest in SS2 and then fastest outright in SS3, he immediately reassured the Citroën team about both the quality of its pre-Cyprus set-up work and the Xsara's ability to mix it with the fastest cars.

"It's true, my rhythm was too slow through the first stage," admitted Seb at the lunchtime service halt. "We had recceed it driving a right-hand drive 4x4 car at 20 kph, which wasn't ideal. I was also probably over cautious... But by making a small modification to the Xsara's diff mapping after SS1, I succeeded in getting rid of the slight understeer that was hampering me. The car cornered much better. Its improved handling gave me more confidence and I was able to push harder..."

The first loop began for Carlos Sainz with the breakage of his semi-automatic gearbox's gearshift paddle: "Using the ordinary lever and clutch pedal lost me a little time. That said, I didn't lose any time when I hit the timing equipment at the end of SS3." A new gearshift paddle and a new front wing at service saw Carlos ready for the second visit to the day's three stages...

'Lagoudera-Spilia 2' didn't go well for Seb: "I was on the defensive over the rough part. The conditions were really punishing and I preferred to lift. I don't think that stage was made for me..." In the following tests, however, the Alsace-based driver showed himself in a much more flattering light when a fastest and a second fastest time, just tenths off the best time, hauled him back into the immediate wake of the leading pack.

The higher temperatures of the second loop saw tyres suffer, Carlos even collecting a puncture, the effects of which were cancelled out however thanks to Michelin's ATS system and the incident didn't prevent him from closing on the front-runners. "The rally is turning out just as I thought it would. It's very tough on the car and tyres, but not so hard on us as last year because the weather has been cooler."

Seb's day ended with a small scare at the service park entry control when his throttle jammed and he switched off his engine. Preferring not to fire it up again until the cause had been identified at final service, he opted to pushed his car into the holding control with co-driver Daniel Elena before the whole team added their weight to that of the crew for the final hop from the holding control to the team's service area...

-citroen-

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About this article
Series WRC
Drivers Carlos Sainz , Sébastien Loeb , Daniel Elena , Marc Marti
Teams Citroën World Rally Team