Seb, Daniel and the Xsara take front stage As clear leaders at the end of the second leg, the Xsara WRC crew SÃ©bastien Loeb and Daniel Elena this evening enjoy a cushion of 1m 20.5s over Harri RovanperÃ¤ and 2m 30.0s over FranÃ§ois...
Seb, Daniel and the Xsara take front stage
As clear leaders at the end of the second leg, the Xsara WRC crew Sébastien Loeb and Daniel Elena this evening enjoy a cushion of 1m 20.5s over Harri Rovanperä and 2m 30.0s over François Duval.
After completing Friday's action with a deficit of just over 20 seconds to make up to catch Marcus Grönholm, Sébastien Loeb made no secret of his intention to do his utmost today to close the gap as quickly as possible in order to engage battle with his Finnish rival.
The Xsara driver's intermediate times in the morning's demanding 'Beraking' test (SS10) confirmed that he had not been bluffing. However, in addition to learning that he had set the fastest time on that stage, he also learnt that the duel he had so been looking forward to was already over following Grönholm's retirement. "I am really disappointed for Marcus," said Seb at the Mundaring Remote Tyre Fitting Zone (RTFZ). "It's very frustrating. I had hoped for a good, long fight, as exciting as my scrap with Petter Solberg last year..."
Somewhat strangely, but ultimately understandable inasmuch as he had mentally keyed himself up for a tough battle, Sébastien took his eye off the ball a little. "On the following stage, 'Helena East', I didn't push but I drove badly. I did a straight on and also spun. In the short stage that came next [Atkins, ES12], I misheard a note and wanted to turn at a junction when I had to turn at the next one...". The short halt afterwards in Mundaring therefore came as a welcome chance for Citroën pair to get back into phase with the tactics dictated by the new situation...
In the following loop, which featured 'Helena West' and 'Helena South' (SS13 and 14), Sébastien and Daniel regained their composure. Their fast but safe pace enabled them to set two additional fastest times prior to the midday service halt. After routine work, the World Champions' Xsara went on to post three further fastest times on SS15, 16 and 17. "That means we were best on all the 'Helenas' today," quipped Daniel... Elena at the evening's service halt which, like Friday, was preceded by the two attempts at Perth's traditional super-special.
"I felt that Sébastien was in a very determined mood this morning," smiled Guy Fréquelin on his return to the Gloucester Park service park. "He really did want to have to fight to earn victory. All of a sudden, when Marcus retired, he had to switch from the role of chaser to that of defender. I'm not sure that's the role he prefers but he plays it to perfection with his usual mix of composure and caution. I really hope he will succeed in picking up his sixth win of the season tomorrow. The ball is in his court but it won't be easy. There's still more than 127 km of stages to come, including close to 90 km in the southernmost part of the route which we haven't been to yet this year."