Leg 1: Loeb and Sordo provisionally first and second The first leg of the 15th and penultimate round of the 2007 World rally Championship ended this evening with the two Citroen Sport C4 WRCs in first and second positions. Sebastien Loeb/Daniel...
Leg 1: Loeb and Sordo provisionally first and second
The first leg of the 15th and penultimate round of the 2007 World rally Championship ended this evening with the two Citroen Sport C4 WRCs in first and second positions. Sebastien Loeb/Daniel Elena are the overnight leaders, 11.2s ahead of their team-mates Dani Sordo/Marc Marti.
The programme of the first leg of the inaugural Rally Ireland was certainly awesome, with a menu of 169km of stages, which is practically half the weekend's total competitive distance. The leg included Thursday evening's super-special in Belfast, plus nine stages to the south of Sligo today.
It was more the nature of the stages than their total distance that represented the biggest challenge, however. "Although it is new to the championship, this event promises to be one of the toughest of the season," warned the ever cautious Guy Frequelin. "The stages couldn't be more treacherous: they are narrow, bumpy and very fast in many places! And if that wasn't enough, they offer very little grip because of the mud dragged onto the road by the cars, the frequent greasy portions and certain places where there is grass growing over the asphalt. With everything that is at stake here this weekend, it would be difficult not to feel a little anxious with a cocktail like that!"
There was further cause for concern early this morning, too, when Sebastien and Daniel reported a rear damper problem on the road section out to SS2 and which had everyone at Citroen Sport suddenly scratching their heads. "The tension was already at a peak, but this turned the pressure up an extra notch," said Guy Frequelin later in the day. "The chances of pulling off a victory here in Ireland suddenly seemed very slim."
The times posted by the three-time World Champions on the first loop's three stages soon reassured the French squad, though. "What Seb and Daniel did this morning was quite exceptional," enthused Guy Frequelin. "Their C4 WRC had a defective damper yet they brilliantly succeeded in limiting the damage. Remarkable! On top of that, Marcus Gronholm went off on SS4. They now have a great opportunity for the end of the championship. Their first class run today was mirrored by that of Dani and Marc which enabled Citroen Sport to claim all today's fastest times, which only goes to confirm the C4 WRC's potential on asphalt. Even so, as I always say, and Japan proved me right, nothing is ever over until the car crosses the finish line, so I remain on my guards."
Sebastien and Daniel echoed similar caution at the end of the particularly long first day: "We saw there was problem with the damper and we wondered how much time we would lose," reported Seb. "I did my best to push hard where the going was flat and then spare the car over the numerous bumpy portions in the hope that the part would hold. And it did. Then Marcus had his problem. After that, SS5 marked the start of a completely different rally for us. We will need to stay concentrated now because the roads are very muddy and it could be so easy to get caught out. There are still two legs to come to try to defend our position."
The team's colours were flown equally proud by Dani Sordo and Marc Marti who put in a faultless run. "It's more of a mud event than an asphalt rally," commented the Spaniard. "I am pleased with our performance today. Our Citroen C4 was competitive, we chose the right BFGoodrich tyres and our times were good. There are still two more days of this to come, but we will do all we can to hold our position..."