Off to a strong start ! This evening, SÃ©bastien Loeb and Daniel Elena returned to Lloret de Mar as the rally leaders, after a first leg conducted at a frantic pace. As for Carlos Sainz/Marc Marti and their Xsara WRC, they are currently ...
Off to a strong start !
This evening, Sébastien Loeb and Daniel Elena returned to Lloret de Mar as the rally leaders, after a first leg conducted at a frantic pace. As for Carlos Sainz/Marc Marti and their Xsara WRC, they are currently lying fourth.
The 'corrida' got off to a fine start, to the delight of the drivers, teams and spectators. With no-one having any idea who will be playing the role of the matador on Sunday afternoon, and who will be the bull, Sébastien Loeb was the first into the arena laid out to the north-east above Vic.
The brand-new World Champion wanted to know right off whether he would be able to match the pace set by François Duval and Markko Märtin. The answer was clear and definite. Second-fastest, within a second of Duval at the end of SS1, fastest and half a second per kilometer ahead of his nearest rival in SS2, he took command of the rally… "I felt that Seb was very much at ease in the first two special stages," Guy Fréquelin commented, keeping, as always, a close eye on things.
In SS3, the weather decided to get involved in the rally, with a brief shower making the roads very greasy. "Sébastien didn't change the setting of his differentials according to the conditions," the Citroën Sport boss explained. "And we spun in a hairpin," Daniel Elena added. "Seb pulled on the handbrake as planned, but the ground was very slippery. We spun a bit too far and stalled."
The second loop was made up of the same three stages. The weather looked like being wet. The gravel crews confirmed this. Therefore , the Citroën team opted for soft tyres, while Carlos went slightly further than his team-mate, also softening his suspension. However, as so often happens when choosing tyres for three special stages in a row, the weather conditions changed quicker than expected. The sun and wind dried the roads. Sébastien coped with the situation admirably, retaking the lead with a margin of two seconds ahead of Markko Märtin.
"That was good," the French driver said at the end of the day. "A good, close fight. I was driving with total freedom. For tomorrow, I would prefer it to be dry - or at least, consistent throughout the day, so that we don't end up having to gamble. But no matter what, I will defend my position as hard as I can."
"Rather difficult," Carlos Sainz commented. "During the first two stages, I was bothered by a bit of understeering which prevented me from getting 100% out of the car. Paradoxically, it did not bother me as much in SS3, which was very slippery. And for the second loop, I had to take care of my suspension, which was too soft, as were the tyres, the roads having dried off…"
Seb in the lead, Carlos in an interesting intermediary position, the Citroën team is satisfied this evening with the way things have started. It hopes to confirm its good shape tomorrow, throughout the eight special stages which are on the menu …
Michelin, Magneti-Marelli, Kinetic, OZ, AIS and Citroën Financement are the partners of the Citroën-Total team in the FIA World Rally Championsh