At the end of the first day, Carlos Sainz/Marc Marti, in second place, 8.4 seconds behind, and Sebastien Loeb/Daniel Elena, third at 33.6 seconds, are in an ideal position to hunt down the leader, Finnish driver Marcus Gronholm, during tomorrow's...
At the end of the first day, Carlos Sainz/Marc Marti, in second place, 8.4 seconds behind, and Sebastien Loeb/Daniel Elena, third at 33.6 seconds, are in an ideal position to hunt down the leader, Finnish driver Marcus Gronholm, during tomorrow's leg.
Set in the Punilla valley, to the North of Villa Carlos Paz, the first leg, which made up nearly half the rally (exactly 44% of the special stages) definitely spread the competitors out, as Francois Duval, fourth overall, is 2 min 50.8 seconds behind the leader.
Even if it was to be expected, as the Argentine arena suits the 'Matador' so well, this evening saw the Citroën camp full of admiration for the performance put in by Carlos Sainz. Fifth on the road, the Madrid-based driver had no problems whatsoever, and was able to make the most of this position by pushing as hard as he could. He was rewarded by a superb fastest time in the 'Ascochinga/La Cumbre' stage : "The car was perfect. I just asked for an adjustment to be made to the handbrake after the first loop," explained a delighted Carlos during the evening's service. "My tyres suffered a bit in the afternoon's loop : I think I had asked for them to be cut too much. Really, it was a very good day : interesting, even amusing because of the fight with Marcus Gronholm. This is all very positive for me, of course, but it is also good for the team. We have to continue to push, especially as Sebastien is not far behind, considering he lost quite a lot of time by being first on the road. So tomorrow, it will be 'al fondo'..."
This evening, Sebastien Loeb can give a sigh of relief. For two reasons. First of all, he avoided an electrical problem which could made retired, when the young team-mates discovered and repaired a damaged alternator cover. And also because his task as 'sweeper' is now over. "At the end of the first loop, I thought I had finished with the job of cleaning the road. Having won two stages, I was doing quite well. But, to my surprise, the second time round was even more penalizing than the first. The sandy parts had been churned up and thousands of spectators had covered up the tracks. Instead of my times improving as they normally do on the second time through, my time in three out of the four stages was slower. In 'Valle Hermoso', I lost nearly a second per kilometre ! However, I must say that my position this evening is not too bad; my Xsara, like in Turkey, is docile, precise and easy to drive, and there are over two hundred competitive kilometres to go. There is still plenty of time to improve..."