After a second leg which, like the first, had more than its fair share of excitement, Carlos Sainz/Marc Marti and Sebastien Loeb/Daniel Elena are lying in first and second place of Rally Argentina this evening. The day started with a return to...
After a second leg which, like the first, had more than its fair share of excitement, Carlos Sainz/Marc Marti and Sebastien Loeb/Daniel Elena are lying in first and second place of Rally Argentina this evening.
The day started with a return to the Calamuchita valley, where three routes provided -- as 'Amboy/Santa Rosa de Calamuchita' was run twice -- four special stages, located around one hundred kilometres to the south of Villa Carlos Paz. It should be noted that this region had not been visited by the rally since the 2001 edition, giving those drivers who had already competed over the stages a slight bonus. Marcus Gronholm and Carlos Sainz took full advantage of this, finishing in that order each time. After 80 competitive kilometres, Carlos had only conceded six seconds, and was putting pressure on the leader.
During the midday service, the Madrid based driver : " The tyres we chose were quite hard, which did not work as well as we had hoped. However, the fight is magnificent ... and it is far from over !" For 'Carlos-who-never-gives-up', these were definitely not empty words -- as proved when he started to attack during the next loop of three special stages, located close to Villa Carlos Paz. A fastest time (SS17) followed by another brought the Xsara to within 13 seconds of the rally leader. The first split time from SS19 showed that the Spaniard was not slowing his pace. Then, Marcus Gronholm retired. Carlos, who had briefly led the rally yesterday, was back in first place. "My tyres, softer this time, were ideal : I was able to push as much as necessary. I'm now in the lead, but I have seen so many situations turn upside down during my career that I am not likely to get carried away. We will remain calm until the finish. Until then, we will try to keep the pace, and to avoid making any mistakes, especially in 'Mina Clavero' and 'El Condor'..."
After being the 'sweeper' yesterday, Sebastien Loeb was determined to reduce the gap which had built up during that frustrating exercise. After pushing hard during two special stages, he analysed the situation calmly : "There are some places where, after just two reconnaissance runs, you can fight with the best. That is not true for the Calamuchita stages, for two reasons : the average speed is very high, around 115 km/h, and they include a lot of 'vertical' sections, bumps which send the car flying in all directions. It is hard to imagine the take-offs ... and landings ... when you go over them slowly during the reconnaissance. I have not been left behind, but I cannot close the gap. In these conditions, I prefer to drive with a reasonable safety margin..."
With Carlos in the lead, there was even less of a reason for Sebastien to attack, and his view of the situation was similar to that of his Spanish team-mate : "Citroën is in an ideal position to claim a superb result for the Manufacturers' classification, and my closest rivals in the Drivers' Championship have all retired. Our job now is to maintain our positions and our results until we cross the finish line. We will do the best we can..."