An epic battle as promised! Having won in Germany a week ago, SÃ©bastien Loeb, Daniel Elena and their Xsara WRC face a rematch against Marcus GrÃ¶nholm and Timo Rautiainen in Finland. With the opening day of competition completed, the duel ...
An epic battle as promised!
Having won in Germany a week ago, Sébastien Loeb, Daniel Elena and their Xsara WRC face a rematch against Marcus Grönholm and Timo Rautiainen in Finland. With the opening day of competition completed, the duel is already shaping up to be a classic one.
Seb and Daniel won the Killeri superspecial yesterday evening and were first on the road today. They were forced to give best to Grönholm over the opening three stages, held in driving rain. The Citroën driver commented : " It's not easy to get straight into the sort of rhythm required for the Rally Finland which you need to grasp quickly in order not to let Marcus get away. It becomes even more difficult when the going gets rough with rain, puddles, and streams of water... " After the first loop of stages, comprising a third of the day's action, Seb `s Xsara was 16.6 seconds off the leader.
" Conditions were not so bad for the second loop of stages, and we began to get used to the incredible speeds here, " continued Seb, having won Vellipohja (SS5) and Mökkiperä (SS6) to reduce the gap to 13 seconds. A second run through these two stages formed the bulk of the third and final loop of the day, which concluded with another visit to the Killeri superspecial. On Vellipohja 2 (SS7), the rain came back with a vengeance. " The previous run of a hundred or so cars through the stage had caused quite deep ruts in the road, " explained Seb. " These ruts filled up with water, which we were soaking up to the benefit of everybody else behind. " The gap to the leader was consequently back up to 17.2 seconds afterwards. In order to reduce it to 11.9 seconds by the end of Mökkiperä 2
(SS8) Seb and Daniel were forced by their own admission to push beyond reasonable limits. " It wasn't raining to start with, but even when we saw some drops on the windscreen I didn't lift off, " said Seb. " I was braking as late as I would in the dry, skidding through the ruts, and aquaplaning all over the place. We had a few big moments but I'm not unhappy with the end result. We're about a dozen seconds off Marcus so there is still everything to play for. Tomorrow I'll be pushing hard again ! " Dani Sordo was once more making a name for himself, on his first World Rally Car drive over the rollercoaster crests of Finland. He ended the day in a points-scoring seventh place, despite a small off on SS4 caused by his windscreen wipers breaking down. The reigning Junior World Rally Champion said : " The problem just suddenly caught me out. But luckily it wasn't so bad as it was only a short stage. I'm having a lot of fun on the high-speed sections : I'm just driving at my own pace and the times are not too bad. I'm simply hoping that we will have a bit more stable weather for the rest of the rally. Driving here is difficult enough as it is ! " Xevi Pons started the day feeling unwell. " I had a heavy cold and I was finding it difficult to breathe, " he said. At first service, the Spaniard received treatment from Marc Germain, Kronos Racing's osteopath. " I felt a lot better afterwards, " continued Xevi. " I didn't do any testing before Finland, so I started off at a sensible pace with the aim of improving as much as possible. Apart from a spin on Vellipohja (SS5) I had no problems at all today, which allowed me to develop a better feeling with these roads. Tomorrow, I hope to make even more progress... "