SÃ©bastien Loeb goes for silver... SÃ©bastien Loeb and Daniel Elena started this morning determined to challenge for victory in their duel against Marcus GrÃ¶nholm. They conceded little in Vaheri (SS10) 1.7 seconds and won Ouninpohja LÃ¤nsi ...
Sébastien Loeb goes for silver...
Sébastien Loeb and Daniel Elena started this morning determined to challenge for victory in their duel against Marcus Grönholm. They conceded little in Vaheri (SS10) 1.7 seconds and won Ouninpohja Länsi (SS11). So for the first time, they beat the five-time winner of this event on its most legendary stage, averaging more than 128 kph. "I thought I drove the stage perfectly," said Seb afterwards. "But in the end my winning margin was just a tiny 1.3 seconds !"
Their tussle for the lead sadly came to an end on the next Ouninpohja stage, Ouninpohja Itä (SS12). Seb recounted : "On the inside of a corner that was marked as a cut in my notes, we hit a big stone that threw the car into the air. The wheel was too damaged for the anti-deflation mousse to work effectively, so we ended the stage with a flat tyre. Many other drivers hit that stone, including Marcus Grönholm. He's been driving that corner since 1989 and never noted it. This makes me think that year after year, we're probably cutting corners deeper and deeper. Well, we're not going to cut it any further right at that exact point..."
Now 45 seconds off the lead, Seb concentrated on a new target : the eight precious points on offer for the runner-up spot. "We had to do that, to try and put the disappointment behind us," said the Citroen driver. "It was a lot less fun afterwards, but that's all part of the game..."
At the same time that he was losing contact with the leader, Seb also lost his first team mate. Xevi Pons went off the road on Ouninpohja Länsi (SS11). The Spaniard said : "On a right-hand corner just after a crest, I found myself sliding towards the outside of the bend. Then I hit a rock with the side of the car, and that pitched us into a roll."
Ouninpohja Länsi was not quite finished with the Kronos team yet. Dani Sordo's excellent run to fifth place came to end on the second run through the same stage. "After a right-hand corner over a crest, I landed a bit too sideways," explained Dani. "As the car landed it snapped to the outside of the corner, where there was a rock face..." The reigning Junior World Champion has only experienced this sort of mishap once since he started rallying. "To make things even worse, I was just stuck in the ditch, unable to get going again !" he added.
Sébastien Loeb `big brother' to the two young Spaniards at Kronos Racing was sympathetic to their plight. "Xevi fell into a trap that has claimed quite a few people," he said. "In my notes it says `crest, 10 metres, right' and I note the real distances. A fraction too fast over the crest and you never make the right. Dani was caught out by a strange thing that took me a while to get used to. At a `corner over crest' you think that you should be turning, but in fact if you take off with the car sideways it will land on its rear, and the momentum will just swivel it round. I'm very careful now to take off over the crests with the car pointing as straight as possible. This sort of experience which is vital on such a specialist event as Finland only comes with time and several attempts..."