On the difficult 'north face' of the Championship, otherwise known as the Finnish round, the two Xsara WRCs of Carlos Sainz/Marc Marti and Sebastien Loeb/Daniel Elena continued today the methodical ascent they started yesterday. Leaving...
On the difficult 'north face' of the Championship, otherwise known as the Finnish round, the two Xsara WRCs of Carlos Sainz/Marc Marti and Sebastien Loeb/Daniel Elena continued today the methodical ascent they started yesterday.
Leaving Jyvaskyla this morning in fifth and seventh positions, the Citroën cars rose by two and three places respectively during the 168 km of tests in the longest leg of the rally. This evening, Carlos and Marc are on the provisional podium, while Sebastien and Daniel, fourth, are at the foot of that same podium.
The day's opening sequence included the first trip through the legendary stage of Ouninpohja, a 33-km toboggan ride, which takes place at an average speed of 130 km/h. "The stage was damp, and I think softer tyres would have been better suited," Carlos Sainz said afterwards. "We are making progress. On this terrain, it is very important to have a car that is perfectly stable under braking, which is rarely in a straight line." Sebastien Loeb, who did a quick " 360 " spin, underlined the difficulty of the event. "We are in sixth gear almost all the time, and many corners, at this speed, unballast the car. It is easy to get caught out, and that was nearly what happened..."
The second loop took the drivers back to Ouninpohja, and Carlos, in excellent shape, set the fastest time. "This result shows that we are going in the right direction," the Madrid-based-driver said delightedly. "The car is much more stable, just as I wanted it." Due to weather worries, both Xsaras had put on soft tyres. "If we could do it over again," Seb admitted, "I would have used harder tyres. It didn't rain, and by the end of the stage, my tyres had lost some of their efficiency. Apart from that, I am satisfied with the behaviour of my Xsara."
The 41 km " Moksi-Leutsu " stage (SS16) opened the third part of the leg. Having caught up with Janne Tuohino, Sebastien took advantage of the longest special stage of the rally to overtake the Finnish driver, increasing his lead in " Himos " (SS17) and brought it up to 6.9 seconds by the end of the Killeri Super stage (SS18).
When the time came to draw up the day's report, during the evening service area, Carlos was far from unhappy : "Even if we had to do a lot of road section in order to reach the special stages in the south, it was a pleasant day. We tried some things which proved successful. With the current balance of the car, I am confident and ready for tomorrow."
Sebastien Loeb was on the same wavelength: "We found the settings which enabled us to be on the right pace. Barring incidents, the positions will not change, but I have to keep an eye on Janne Tuohino, in order to contain him and finish the event without making any mistakes..."