Leg 1: an overnight one-two for Citroen in Germany Sebastien Loeb, Daniel Elena and their Citroen C4 WRC are second overall at the end of the opening day of the 2007 ADAC Rallye Deutschland, but the run of their Citroen Sport team- mates Dani ...
Leg 1: an overnight one-two for Citroen in Germany
Sebastien Loeb, Daniel Elena and their Citroen C4 WRC are second overall at the end of the opening day of the 2007 ADAC Rallye Deutschland, but the run of their Citroen Sport team- mates Dani Sordo and Marc Marti was halted by a mechanical problem on SS5. The banks of the Mosel River provided the backdrop to the 2007 World Rally Championship's return to asphalt competition and the opening leg of the season's eleventh round featured two loops of three stages.
The German fixture is known for its frequently unsettled weather which can switch rapidly from bright sunshine to sudden, often isolated storms, a factor that clearly has a major influence on tyre choices, which themselves have to be made some hours before the start of certain stages. "It's never an easy exercise," warned Guy Frequelin before the start.
The morning's cloudless sky and dry conditions meant there was no hesitation in the ranks of Citroen Sport which sent out its two cars on dry weather BFGoodrich tyres for the opening loop, and both crews were smiling as they returned to the first service halt in Trier. "We got the weekend off to a great start on SS1," commented Seb. "I think we caught our rivals by surprise and that enabled us to pull out a bit of a cushion. I kept to the same pace for SS2 and posted the fastest time again, but a small mistake round a hairpin on SS3 cost me a few seconds." Despite having less experience of this event than his team-mate, Dani Sordo also enjoyed a good run. "I based my pace on the split-times of my rivals and posted some quick times," he explained. "I succeeded in keeping to the plan established before the start, finishing the first loop ahead of Marcus Gronholm and just 8.5s behind Seb."
The shower that fell at lunchtime and the typically fickle weather caused Seb and Dani to fear a more complex afternoon, however. For the second attempt at the same loop, the two Citroen C4 crews based their tyre call on the likelihood of damp but drying conditions. They opted for soft compound tyres but, in the end, their choice probably wasn't ideal. "The roads dried out quicker than expected," related Seb. "The car was also more difficult to drive and less precise. Even so, I managed to limit the damage and I'm not unhappy with my times. Francois Duval is always strong here and his performance today doesn't surprise me. He has made the most of the fact that he is driving a Xsara, which is unbeaten in Germany and which is equipped with three active differentials, something the regulations do not allow for the C4. Last but not least, his tyres seemed to be more suited to the conditions. The gap isn't that big, however, and I will try to pass ahead again tomorrow."
Guy Frequelin had mixed feelings about the way the opening leg unfolded: "This rally has a habit of springing a few surprises and this year is no exception. Citroen has already won this event six times but we have faced a big fight every time. Today confirmed what I have kept repeating to all those who saw us as easy winners here. If you want to win, you need to put in a faultless run and we didn't do that today. I am referring notably to the retirement of Dani Sordo and Marc Marti whose good run was stopped by a mechanical problem on SS5. Our tyre choice for the afternoon wasn't ideal either, which only goes to highlight the performances of Sebastien and Daniel who succeeded in staying in the hunt for victory. At the wheel of the OMV Kronos-run Citroen Xsara, Francois Duval was his usual strong self here and he succeeded in making full use of his car's potential. Congratulations also go to Toni Gardemeister who is fifth in the PH Sport-run car. This rally is far from over, however. The second leg is the longest and probably the most difficult of the weekend. Anything can still happen."