Friday wrap: Loeb reigns in Spain After 125 kilometres of competitive action on Rally de Espana it's situation normal - but not for all the WRC mechanics, who have to change their cars' specification from gravel to asphalt, at a specially...
Friday wrap: Loeb reigns in Spain
After 125 kilometres of competitive action on Rally de Espana it's situation normal - but not for all the WRC mechanics, who have to change their cars' specification from gravel to asphalt, at a specially extended service halt.
Citroen's Sebastien Loeb is in front with a lead of 3.8 seconds over the Citroen Junior Team's Sebastien Ogier, but the older Frenchman said that he would have expected the situation to be reversed.
It may be the truth, or it may be an intriguing element of gamesmanship towards his team mate for next year. "I really didn't expect it to work out like this," said Loeb. "In any case I'm in the lead, but it's not much of a lead. We'll see how it all works out tomorrow. Everything is equal really and now we start again from scratch."
In theory, Loeb's first on the road tomorrow should give him an advantage over his rivals, as the stages will get dirtier as more mud and gravel gets dragged onto the line. But it's not something that Ogier is particularly worried about.
"Under any circumstances, catching Seb is going to be pretty difficult so I'm not worrying too much about road position," he said. "The only thing I can do is limit the gap and try to take advantage of any opportunities that come my way. I know the stages tomorrow, so that could perhaps help me - but the same is true for Seb."
Ford's Jari-Matti Latvala was regretting an incident on the final stage when he broke a wheel. He backed off, maybe losing five seconds, as he believed that the tyre was going to come off the rim. "I didn't notice the small rock that broke the rim," he said. "Afterwards I was convinced that the tyre would go down but in the end it stayed up. I'm happy, but I've had too many little mistakes like that today."
Another person regretting an earlier misfortune was Petter Solberg. The privateer Citroen driver lost 20 seconds on the opening stage, which if removed would put him less than three seconds off Loeb in second place. As it was, he ended day one in fourth.
"It's so frustrating," he said. "As a privateer I'd say it's impossible to win against the factory teams, so you can't afford to throw away any opportunities. But we're in the fight, and tomorrow is another day. Apart from the first stage, I think we've driven really well."
Mikko Hirvonen and Dani Sordo are locked in a battle for fifth after ending the opening day separated by just 12.3 seconds. Hirvonen admitted that he didn't feel particularly tuned into the rally, having overcooked his brakes in the morning. "That's not something I've done for years," he reflected. "There's something missing, but I can't quite put my finger on it."
Sordo had a similar report. "I've just not had a very good feeling with the car," he pointed out. "It's disappointing. I didn't have confidence with the grip and our set-up wasn't perfect. I think we can push tomorrow though."
With everyone back on asphalt, another intriguing day lies in store...