Sebastien Loeb continued his drive toward his first World Rally Championship victory in his home country, the Frenchman topped the charts for the second consecutive day at the Tour de Corse in his Citroen Xsara WRC. SÃ©bastien Loeb and...
Sebastien Loeb continued his drive toward his first World Rally Championship victory in his home country, the Frenchman topped the charts for the second consecutive day at the Tour de Corse in his Citroen Xsara WRC.
"Eight fastest times from eight: everything's fine!" a satisfied Loeb summed up the event so far. "Everybody is now asking whether I can make it a grand slam. That's not my objective, but if I can win more stages driving at this pace, which is sufficiently quick to ensure the Xsara is easy to drive and for me to remain fully concentrated, then that will be a bonus."
And the key objective for Loeb, as well as for his young teammate, Francois Duval? The manufacturers' championship, as Loeb confirmed: "My main aim is to win to try to score maximum points for Citroen."
Pending the completion of the Tour de Corse -- Citroen is leading main rival and PSA sister marque Peugeot by 150 points to 128 -- and now has the opportunity to clinch the manufacturers' title, as Peugeot's lead driver, Marcus Gronholm is out of the rally when his new double-clutch transmission failed at the end of the first leg.
"(The brakes) began overheating, then I lost the front right brakes and, by the end of SS5, the pedal was hitting the floor," Duval explained. "The front left brakes obviously started to heat up too and I finished the stage with the little braking power I still had at the rear, plus the help of my handbrake. We had a couple of scares, but the main thing was that we succeeded in getting the car back to service."
The brake problems dropped Duval back to fifth place, behind Gardemeister and the Subarus of Petter Solberg and Stephane Sarrazin, after the first two special stages. However, Duval pushed hard again, while Sarrazin was struggling with understeer on his Impreza WRC, and by the end of the day the Citroen pilot had made up the eight-second gap and moved 18 seconds ahead, although he is still 25 seconds adrift of Solberg and 50 seconds behind Gardemeister.
And while Loeb was in a class of his own, Gardemeister beat Solberg by some 15 seconds on the day, stretching his advantage to 24.6 seconds. Duval took 10 seconds off his gap to the Finn on the final two stages, though, so there will be no coasting to the finish.
"I chose slightly harder tyres this afternoon and that was the right selection, even though I don't have such a good feeling with them," the Finn recalled. "Petter will really want second place tomorrow and Francois Duval will be trying hard to make up time he lost today, so I have to concentrate on keeping them back."
The rally concludes tomorrow with two runs through each of the Acqua Doria - Serra Di Ferro and Pont De Calzola - Agosta stages.