Leg 1: Both Citroen C4s in a strong position The long and challenging first leg of the 2007 Rally Japan has seen Sebastien Loeb and Daniel Elena conclude the day in second position overall with their Citroen C4 WRC, 10.3s behind the provisional...
Leg 1: Both Citroen C4s in a strong position
The long and challenging first leg of the 2007 Rally Japan has seen Sebastien Loeb and Daniel Elena conclude the day in second position overall with their Citroen C4 WRC, 10.3s behind the provisional leader. Their Citroen-Total team-mates Dani Sordo and Marc Marti follow two places behind in fourth, 40.6s off the lead.
The format and timing of the Japanese round is seen by everyone involved in the World Championship as a unique challenge and this year's event, which began in earnest this morning, always had the makings of being no exception. The programme of the first leg featured 106.18km competitive action divided into two loops of four stages, plus two attempts at the super-special which runs ne xt to the service park. As crews set out for the morning's tests, the sun was just rising but temperatures were reported to be a low -4C at the start of SS1.
The two Citroen crews approached the morning's run in their own way, although Sebastien and Daniel were unhappy with their performance on SS2... "For once I was wide awake for the first stage; it was on the second test that I dropped time," remarked Seb at the lunchtime break. "It wasn't the easiest of starts; there was fog on SS1, plus ice, and the handling of my car wasn't perfect. That said, it was by no means all bad because we managed to set the fastest time on the longest stage (SS3), our main rival has hit trouble and we are not that far behind the leader..."
Dani and Marc took things cautiously over the morning's slippery stages. "As if these stages weren't difficult enough as they are, we suffered from a lack of visibility this morning because of the fog and there was even ice about," reported Dani. "There was no question of taking any risks but my pace actually wasn't bad. Our split-times on SS3 show that we were up there with the leaders until I was forced to come to a sideways halt to avoid hitting a bridge. I was able to continue and I went on to win the next stage (SS4). The Spanish pair reached the lunchtime service park in fifth place.
The afternoon's run produced few changes at the top of the leaderboard, although Sebastien and Daniel profited from a trouble-free run over the four remaining stages and the two attempts at the super-special (in pouring rain) to move into second place, a little more than 10 seconds behind the leader. "It hasn't been the easiest of days and I'm glad it's behind us. The gap ahead of us isn't big and we are still in with a real chance," commented Seb. Meanwhile, Dani's constantly improving times put him regularly up with the front-runners (including a fastest time on SS8) and he, too, was in a positive frame of mind at end-of-play this evening.
Guy Frequelin had good reason to be pleased with the overnight positions of the two Citroen C4 WRCs: "Both cars are in a strong position to secure a good result here. The misadventure of our rival also gives Sebastien a chance to turn the tables in the Drivers' championship. For that, we will first need to cure the slight understeer problem he had this afternoon. Dani had a good day, too. He has learnt a great deal and we're still in the fight although this event is far from over."