Day 1: Citroen, Loeb and Elena in Olympic form The first day of this weekend's Rallye Deutschland, round 10 of the 2008 World Rally Championship, turned out to be particularly successful for the Citroen Total squad which saw both its C4 WRCs ...
Day 1: Citroen, Loeb and Elena in Olympic form
The first day of this weekend's Rallye Deutschland, round 10 of the 2008 World Rally Championship, turned out to be particularly successful for the Citroen Total squad which saw both its C4 WRCs finish on the overnight podium. Sebastien Loeb and Daniel Elena are on the highest step, with Dani Sordo and Marc Marti following in third place.
The opening leg featured a menu of three stages to be contested twice each, split only by a lunchtime visit to the service park in Trier. The 108.16km of competitive action took competitors over the twisty roads that snake through the vineyards on the banks of the Moselle River, classic territory for the German round. Following their success on the home soil of their main championship rivals in Finland, Sebastien Loeb and Daniel Elena had no intention of being caught by surprise this morning as they started the Rallye Deutschland, an event they have dominated for the past six years. They kicked off at the same fast pace that earned them the spoils in Jyvaskyla!
"The conditions stayed dry all day," explained Sebastien. "I immediately felt comfortable with my car and I was able to push hard from the outset. By choosing the soft compound Pirelli tyre, I knew I would have to adapt my driving style and be on my guard all the time, especially where there were changes in the amount of grip available. It also gave my confidence a big boost, though, and I made the most of that to pull out an early gap. On dry asphalt, it's not easy to build up big leads, so I was naturally pleased to see that we were 15.3 seconds clear at the end of the first loop."
Dani Sordo and Marc Marti were just as pleased with their morning's run in the second Citroen Total C4 WRC: "I gradually started to find my marks on asphalt again," reported Dani. "I made a few small adjustments to my set-up between stages to try to adapt it as closely as possible to the conditions. It would have been nice to have felt a little more comfortable with the soft compound tyres, but I know where I lost time. I will try to make the most of the second loop to defend second place."
The weather forecasters of Meteo France Sports, one of the technical partners of Citroen's 2008 programme, predicted that rain wouldn't upset the afternoon's stages, so both Double Chevron crews set off in a relaxed frame of mind ready for the rest of the day's action...
"I decided to keep the same set-up as this morning and stay on soft rubber, and that paid off," said Seb who claimed the fastest time on all today's stages. "Running on soft tyres over roads soiled by the first pass, we were able to make the most of our C4's potential to increase our lead. It's been a very positive day, but a gap of 19.9s isn't yet sufficient to start thinking in terms of controlling from in front. I have an excellent feeling with my car and that will be important for tomorrow's tough, long leg."
Dani chose hard compound tyres for the afternoon, and also ran a harder set-up compared with this morning. He did his best to defend his position on the two stages that were covered, but the last test of the day was neutralized. The young Spaniard was looking for a better feeling in the slippery conditions but succeeded in staying close to the driver in second place, despite a small mistake at a junction. His objective tomorrow will be to challenge for silver, which would naturally be an excellent result for both him and Citroen.
"Everyone at Citroen Sport did a splendid job today," commented Olivier Quesnel. "Everyone has been saying that we are the favourites here, but we knew it wouldn't be easy. Sebastien and Daniel have once again shown that this is one of their favourite hunting grounds and they put in an impeccable performance today to build up a handy cushion. Dani and Marc spent some time looking for the ideal set-up and are third this evening with a real chance of improving on that tomorrow. We are aware that nothing is by any means over yet, though. Saturday's leg is very long and could cause some surprises."