An eventful day for the Citroen boys! At the end of what has been a particularly difficult day of sport, marked notably by constantly changing weather conditions which led to some very tough tyre calls, the Citroen C2 Super 1600 crews have...
An eventful day for the Citroen boys!
At the end of what has been a particularly difficult day of sport, marked notably by constantly changing weather conditions which led to some very tough tyre calls, the Citroen C2 Super 1600 crews have escaped pretty much unscathed after claiming six of the leg's seven possible fastest times. The only exception is Brice Tirabassi and Fabrice Gordon who are unfortunately missing from this evening's leaderboard following an off on SS7. The Frenchmen were forced to retire in order to give the mechanics a chance to repair their car in time for next weekend's Rally Finland.
The opening leg of the 2006 Rallye Deutschland took the JWRC runners to the vineyards of the Mosel Valley but action only kicked off on SS2 after the day's opening test was neutralised because of an off by a WRC competitor. True to their form since the beginning of the season, Kris Meeke and his co-driver Glenn Patterson were fastest off the mark, claiming the best times on both SS2 and S to pull out a gap of more than 20 seconds after just 30km of S3 competitive action. Brake trouble in the following test saw the Ulsterman drop more than 2 minutes however. "We did a precautionary brake bleed between SS3 and SS4," said Kris.
"Then, just after the start of SS4, the pedal went to the floor, leaving me with no other option than to use the handbrake." It was a minor problem that was swiftly cured at following service, as Citroen Sport's Customer Competition Technical manager Alexis Avril explained.
"Air got into the brakes and left them without hydraulic pressure! Kris found himself with no front brakes. Only the rear brakes were working." Despite a puncture on SS5 which cost them half a minute, Kris and Glenn profited from the afternoon's loop to make up for lost time and they are now up to 6th place, less than one and a half minutes behind the overnight leader. "I like tomorrow's stages and I intend to drive at the same pace," promises Kris who still has every chance of taking victory as survivors face the prospect of competing over the infamous Baumholder military ranges which can be particularly awesome in the wet.
In 2nd place this evening after a polished Leg 1 performance which saw them keep clear of trouble are Czechs Martin Prokop and Jan Tomanek and their Jipocar Racing Citroen C2 Super 1600. "Our car has been perfect all day," smiled Martin. "It's up to us the keep it going tomorrow, even if it will be difficult to keep Kris at bay. Even so, we should be able to defend our place on the podium." A podium finish is also the objective of another Citroen C2 crew, Julien Pressac and Jack Boyère, who are currently 4th . "Our target was to finish today within striking distance of the top-three," confides Julien. "And it will be the same tomorrow! Despite the conditions, we succeeded in keeping out of trouble despite this being my first drive with the C2 Super 1600 in the wet. Our pre-event testing for this event was done entirely in the dry. I will start tomorrow in the same frame of mind as today, namely a first pass to get a feel for the stages and then up my speed second time through." That tactic has paid so far for Julien and Jack who this evening head locals Aaron Burkart and Tanja Geilhausen in their PRT-run Citroen C2.
Finally, the run of Brice Tirabassi and Fabrice Gordon came to a halt 1km into the day's penultimate test, SS7. "Under heavy braking for a slow turn, the car began to lurch before going into a spin and we ended up hitting a tree on my side," reported Fabrice. After the impact, Brice complained of pain to his cervical vertebrae and he was helicoptered to hospital in Trier for tests. "It's nothing serious, just strained muscles. It will probably take me a few days to get over it," concluded Brice after his release from the Krankenhaus Bruder Trier.