The two CitroÃ«n C4 WRCs on top before Monaco finale With only one of the 2007 Monte Carlo Rally's fifteen stages remaining, the CitroÃ«n C4 WRCs of SÃ©bastien Loeb/Daniel Elena and Dani Sordo/Marc MartÃ returned to the Valence service park ...
The two Citroën C4 WRCs on top before Monaco finale
With only one of the 2007 Monte Carlo Rally's fifteen stages remaining, the Citroën C4 WRCs of Sébastien Loeb/Daniel Elena and Dani Sordo/Marc Martí returned to the Valence service park this evening in the same positions they have held since SS1, namely 1 and 2.
The third leg actually straddles Saturday and Sunday. Today's competitive action totalled 131km and featured two loops of three stages in the France's Ardèche and Haute-Loire departments, before Sunday morning's superspecial by the harbour side in Monaco which will bring down the curtain on the opening round of the 2007 World Championship.
Once again, Citroën Sport's technical partner Météo France provided accurate weather information for the day and actively participated in the tyre choice decisions along with BFGoodrich's technical staff and the team's own route observers. Keeping up the momentum they have shown so far, the Citroën pair profited from today's mild and sunny conditions to claim a further one-two on the Lalouvesc stage (SS9) which saw Sébastien Loeb notch up his sixth fastest time of the weekend and the ninth in a row for the Citroën C4 WRC.
True to tradition, Saint Bonnet le Froid proved quite delicate with long wet patches and lower temperatures than those encountered to date. With grip at a premium and constantly changing, Seb and Dani drove cautiously and, for the first time since Thursday's start, left the fight for the fastest time to their rivals. Their opponents were allowed to battle again for the best time on the following test, Lamastre (SS11), on which the Citroën Sport pair opted for a safe pace based on the split times of their chasers. "We went well in today's first stage but the rest of the morning was a little trickier," explained Sébastien. "Not only was the surface slippery in places but I also had trouble finding a pace that enabled me to stay both concentrated and safe." "The morning went well for us," added Dani. "Saint Bonnet le Froid was new to me and it's true that it's a very difficult stage. On the next test, I preferred to lift once we got to the wet part until the finish. There was no point risking making a mistake."
The two crews set off for the afternoon's loop with a cushion of 1m 18.8s and 49.2s respectively over Marcus Grönholm in 3rd place. Sébastien and Dani heeded Guy Fréquelin's advice and opted for a totally risk-free driving style and it came as no surprise to see the two C4 WRCs slightly off the pace they have shown so far. The time to attack was over and the main thing was to ensure the team went into tomorrow's superspecial in 1st and 2nd positions overall.
As cautious as ever prior to Sunday's finale in Monte Carlo, Guy Fréquelin was nonetheless buoyant about the C4 WRC's debut so far: "We have been able to see that the car is in its element over practically all the different types of asphalt we came across, from Thursday evening's fast and wet stages like Saint Jean-en-Royans, and the twistier, narrower dry tarmac of the sort we saw in the Ardèche region yesterday. We have also learnt valuable information about the way our BFGoodrich tyres performed over the 46km Saint Pierreville-Antraigues stage. I am also reassured about Seb's fitness. He's as good as he's ever been. Dani Sordo has shown how quick he is on sealed surfaces.
So, in the light of all that, how could I not be delighted with the way things have gone so far? But my experience of motor sport tells me that we still need to be cautious. There is still the superspecial to come before we can consider that victory is in the bag."
Citroën Sport's Technical Manager Xavier Mestelan was also very pleased: "This event has reassured the team about the handling and performance potential of the C4 WRC and has essentially confirmed what we saw in testing. It was good to see how easily Seb and Dani were able to adapt and make the most of the car."
The last word tonight goes to Sébastien Loeb: "Everything has gone well so far. The C4 WRC has been competitive and reliable and our aim on the superspecial Monaco will be to round off the work we have accomplished over the past three days with a win."