Loeb and Elena in front on the loose The second day of the 2009 Cyprus Rally marked a switch to muddy gravel stages which enabled Sebastien Loeb and Daniel Elena to maintain their grasp at the top of the leaderboard. With one day of competition...
Loeb and Elena in front on the loose
The second day of the 2009 Cyprus Rally marked a switch to muddy gravel stages which enabled Sebastien Loeb and Daniel Elena to maintain their grasp at the top of the leaderboard. With one day of competition remaining, the five-time World Champions enjoy a sizable cushion over their main rivals, while Dani Sordo and Marc Marti are third overall in their Citroen C4 WRC.
Today saw the 2009 Cyprus Rally trade Friday's asphalt action for an all-gravel programme, although overnight rain left the Troodos Mountains' twisty tracks extremely muddy. For once, the day's menu included just one pass over the five stages.
With grip at a premium, running first on the road turned out not to be such a handicap and Sebastien Loeb emerged from the morning's three tests with an even bigger lead at the top of the order: "It was only through the muddier portions that I really lost time clearing a better line for those starting after me. In Anadiou Diam, for example, we dropped 10 seconds in barely two kilometres. I just didn't have any traction! Things went better on the next stage, Pano Panagia, but I felt even more comfortable on Orkontas where I was able to push much harder. I came close to spinning at one point, but that didn't prevent us from posting the fastest time."
After beginning the day in second place, Dani Sordo returned to the lunchtime service halt in Limassol in third spot: "I don't know why, but I didn't drive well on the first stage. I had trouble finding the right rhythm through the countless first- and second-gear hairpins. Things went better on the next two tests, but Mikko still managed to steal the advantage."
The afternoon's programme featured two long stages: Xyliatos (30.94km) and Kourdali (26.25km). The return of sunshine meant that the ground was entirely dry by now, and the crews found themselves facing traditional Cypriot conditions. Sebastien Loeb dropped 10 or so seconds on Xyliatos after being slowed by a brake problem near the finish: "I didn't have any brakes at all, and I was forced to pump on the pedal." Despite a brake bleed on the following road section, the reigning World Champion suffered further trouble on SS11: "The brakes were back to normal, but the balance had somehow suffered. Thankfully, we had a big enough gap over our chasers to be able to complete Kourdali without having to take any big risks. We're 49 seconds clear of Mikko this evening and that's nice. He will be second on the road tomorrow, so he will be road-sweeping, too. It's going to be an interesting finale because Sunday's stages are faster than today's..."
Like Sebastien, Dani was hampered by the loose top-coating which carpeted this afternoon's two stages. "That doesn't explain why I'm so far off the fastest times, though," recognised the Spaniard. "I know it's an under-statement, but today didn't go as well as we had been hoping. Petter Solberg got very close this afternoon, too, but we will do all we can to defend our footing on the podium tomorrow."
"Sebastien's talent enabled him to continue his assertive run on the loose after his display on yesterday's asphalt," concluded Citroen Racing Director Olivier Quesnel. "His brake problem this afternoon shows that nothing can ever be taken for granted, though, especially on stages that are as hard as this on the cars. Dani had a tough day but I mustn't grumble; he's still third and the positions as they stand would be a good overall result for Citroen."