Sebastien Loeb (Citroen) continued where he left off in Corsica last weekend. The Frenchman was fastest on five of the six stages, only SolÃ interrupting a clean sweep. Francois Duval (Citroen) and Marcus Gronholm (Peugeot) fought tooth and nail...
Sebastien Loeb (Citroen) continued where he left off in Corsica last weekend. The Frenchman was fastest on five of the six stages, only Solà interrupting a clean sweep. Francois Duval (Citroen) and Marcus Gronholm (Peugeot) fought tooth and nail for second. Both spun on the opening stage before Duval initially got the better of his rival. The Finn fought back to move ahead on stage four but Duval retook the place and pulled clear on the final two stages to end the day 18.4sec ahead. Gigi Galli (Mitsubishi) was happier than in Corsica and held fifth but team-mate Harri Rovanpera experienced similar gearshift problems to last weekend and lies 14th. Petter Solberg (Subaru) was the day's leading retirement.
The Norwegian crashed into a bank near the finish of stage three and the impact damaged the track control arm at the front right corner. He will restart tomorrow under SupeRally regulations. Team-mate Stephane Sarrazin also retired, the Frenchman rolling on the last stage. His car caught fire and burned out but there were no injuries.
The Citroens of Sebastien Loeb/Daniel Elena and Francois Duval/Sven Smeets have provided further evidence of their asphalt form today by taking a commanding one-two lead in the new look, Tarragona region-based Rally Catalunya.
Sebastien Loeb/Daniel Elena: "A very positive day. It's such a buzz getting the line just right over these very fast stages which run on a mostly uniform surface. The first pass was a bit delicate though after only two, low-speed runs in recce. They come at you very differently at rally speed."
Francois Duval/Sven Smeets: "I will try to do the same thing tomorrow to keep him (Gronholm) at bay if the conditions aren't too bad. If the weather takes a turn for the worse, we will see. My aim is to stay on the road. I don't have much experience of the Xsara in the wet."
The Subaru World Rally Team had an eventful first Leg of the 2005 Rally Catalunya. Chris Atkinson completed Leg one without major incident to finish the day in 15th overall, however his team-mates Stephane Sarrazin and Petter Solberg retired from the Leg.
Petter Solberg/Phil Mills: "I was coming up to a left-hand corner just over a crest about 3km from the end of the stage, but I braked a little late and went off the road. The car hit a bank on the right hand side, which broke a link bolt to the track control arm on the front right corner. We didn't have any steering and it was impossible to go on any further. We're going to get it fixed now and will be back again."
Stephan Sarrazin/Denis Giraudet: "I started to spin at the end of a long fifth gear corner on stage six. I thought I had caught it, but then the car went off so quickly I think it may have clipped something. The car bounced at the rear and landed off the road damaged and unable to continue. About fifteen minutes later the gorse caught fire, probably from the hot exhaust and then very quickly the whole car went up. It's really disappointing as my performance was increasing, I had good pace and the car felt easy. My confidence was growing and now I'm just sorry I'm stopped and we won't be going any further."
Chris Atkinson/Glen MacNeall: "Today hasn't been so bad. It's good to be here at the end of the day! After some poor tyre calls this morning this afternoon wasn't so bad and for tomorrow the plan is to try and keep building experience. On gravel I know what the car is going to do, but on tarmac I do not yet have that knowledge and confidence to push as hard, as I know I am here to learn."
BP-Ford World Rally Team drivers Toni Gardemeister and Jakke Honkanen and team-mates Roman Kresta and Jan Tomanek each held top six places after a fluctuating opening day of the Rally Catalunya - Costa Daurada. They led a quartet of Ford Focus RS World Rally Cars in the top eight points-scoring positions after a demanding day's action on fast asphalt mountain roads south of Barcelona.
Toni Gardemeister/Jakke Honkanen: "Today has been good overall but the weather was difficult and I gambled a lot on tyres. There was a lot of gravel in the tight corners but nothing on the fast sections - they are quite strange conditions. The leaderboard is different to Corsica but I'm pleased that I'm up still up there near the top."
Roman Kresta/Jan Tomanek: "I destroyed my tyres on the dry roads in stage three and had no grip for the next one. It was my choice to choose soft tyres and to soften the suspension and it wasn't the correct one. On stage three I spent the entire 28.33km thinking about my tyre choice and my mistake."
Marcus Gronholm has ended a difficult first leg of the Catalunya Rally in third place behind the two Citroens, while Nicolas Bernardi had an unlucky day that he ended in 10th place.
Marcus Gronholm/Timo Rautiainen: "I am generally quite happy, although I lost my way a bit on the last pair of stages. I did not have complete confidence in the handling of the car in totally dry conditions: I am not quite sure why. Our tyre choices have been quite good all day and this has been the key to our position tonight. But tomorrow I think it will be more a question of defending our place from Toni Gardemeister and the rest behind, rather than attacking the Citroens in front."
Nicolas Bernardi/Jean Marc Fortin: "Out of three tyre changes we got three wrong, so it was difficult to have a lot of confidence with the car. It is a pity, because when things go well the general feeling is good. But I wanted to finish higher up the general classification, and while there is a very good and clear reason why this has not happened, it still annoys me! We just have to hope for better luck tomorrow."
Alex Bengue heads the Skoda Motorsport World Rally Team drivers after the opening leg of the new-look Catalunya-Costa Daurada Rally. He was always the leading Fabia WRC 05 driver but a timing error at the start of SS4 cost him one minute and left him in 12th position on his debut at the Spanish rally. Jan Kopecký made a steady start and let his confidence build until he ended today's six stages in 13th place while Armin Schwarz finished the leg in 16th.
Armin Schwarz/Klaus Wicha: "We have had similar handling problems here to the ones we had in Corsica but thankfully not quite so severe. It is impossible for me to push harder."
Alex Bengue/Caroline Escudero: "The conditions have been very difficult today. It has been impossible to find a set up of suspension and tyres that works perfectly on both the wet and dry roads that we have seen in each pair of stages today. However I've been able to set some good times
when everything was right and fourth fastest on today's final stage was really good for us."
Jan Kopecký/Filip Schovanek: "I tried to start today the way I finished in Corsica. It's been tricky because of the conditions but my confidence is growing with every stage and so I'm fairly happy with the way the day has gone."
The Mitsubishi Motors Motor Sports WRC crew of "Gigi" Galli and Guido d'Amore lead the team's assault in Rally Catalunya, the penultimate round of the FIA World Rally Championship. The Lancer WRC05 crew hold fifth overall, just 11.7 seconds adrift of fourth, after setting top stage times in the final asphalt event of the season. Running a different specification to their team-mates, Harri Rovanpera and Risto Pietilainen suffered with similar problems to Corsica this morning, but modifications to the set-up have improved their Lancer WRC05s performance. The loss of time this morning, however, has dropped the crew to 14th overnight.
Harri Rovanpera/Risto Pietilainen: "It's been a frustrating day, but we try again tomorrow with some different settings to see what we can do".
Gigi Galli/Guido d'Amore: "It's been a good day, but I have to say the pace is high. The improvements we have made in the short time after Corsica are a step forward and tomorrow we will again try to maintain our pace. I try to reach the edge, to understand more about the car and find out where the limits are. But today has been good, and our position is nice".