Leg 1: CitroÃ«n in combative form after the break The opening leg of the 2007 Rally Finland, round nine of this year's World Rally Championship, ended this evening in JyvÃ¤skylÃ¤ with SÃ©bastien Loeb, Daniel Elena and their CitroÃ«n C4 WRC ...
Leg 1: Citroën in combative form after the break
The opening leg of the 2007 Rally Finland, round nine of this year's World Rally Championship, ended this evening in Jyväskylä with Sébastien Loeb, Daniel Elena and their Citroën C4 WRC in third place and Dani Sordo/Marc Martí following in sixth spot with the second car. Is Rally Finland the best of locations to resume after an eight-week break? Even before the start, there had been doubts in the Citroën Sport camp regarding that question. Now, after the first day of action, Guy Fréquelin says he is convinced of the answer: "This really wasn't the easiest of events to start the ball rolling again! Every round of the championship has its own inherent difficulties which make them unique and Finland is undoubtedly amongst the most complex of them all. We have seen that again with this year's extremely fast stages where driver feeling and local knowledge need to be impeccable to stand any chance of giving 100 per cent, and that wasn't always the case with our crews today."
A quick glance at the provisional leaderboard suggests there is no cause for concern, however, since the N°1 Citroën C4 WRC of Sébastien Loeb/Daniel Elena is currently third overall, 20 seconds behind the leader. As a rule, this sort of gap wouldn't seem insurmountable for the three-time World Champions, yet the fact that this is Finland sheds a special light on the situation. "We've been fighting all day long to stop our rivals pulling too far clear," explains Sib. "We've succeeded in limiting the damage, but there is still a gap. Although I drove quickly, I didn't perhaps feel totally comfortable during the second attempt at this morning's stages because the surface was so cut up. I also made a small mistake on SS4 when I stalled at a hairpin."
Dani Sordo can practically be considered a Rally Finland rookie since he has only contested the event once before at the wheel of a WRC car and the Spaniard didn't have the same objective as his team-mate as he rolled off the start podium. "There was no question of Marc Martí and I taking any risks. Our aim is to reach the finish and try to score Manufacturers' points for Citroën. It's encouraging to be sixth overall this evening. My notes were good and I'm having fun driving the C4 and I have continued to fine-tune its set-up along with the team's technical staff. I also made a point of not sliding too much and I am looking to collect as much information as possible for the gravel rounds to come. OK, I'm not fully satisfied with being sixth tonight but I am pleased with my day."
The mood is equally upbeat elsewhere in Citroën Sport's ranks. "This event is far from over," underlines Sébastien. "My Citroën C4 has handled perfectly but we will continue to work on the set-up. We've got drivers just behind us and I can't afford to lift, so we will continue to push, which in turn will keep the pressure on those ahead of us. There's still so much that can happen. There are more than 180km of stages to come tomorrow and I learnt to my cost not so long ago that the situation at the top of the leaderboard can change very quickly."
Like Sébastien, Guy Fréquelin refuses to throw in the towel: "It is true that we have got off to better starts when returning to the championship in the past and our run today wasn't very good. It will be up to us to make sure tomorrow's leg goes better. Dani and Marc have kept to the plan we established before the start, but Sébastien and Daniel aren't in an easy situation. They are caught between the desire to try and catch the leaders and the fear of making a mistake that could have far-reaching consequences. I am convinced that this factor influenced our performance today. But it's far from over and Rally Finland has so many potential pitfalls that so much can still happen tomorrow."