SÃ©bastien Loeb takes charge... SÃ©bastien Loeb, Daniel Elena and their Kronos Total CitroÃ«n WRT Xsara took the lead of the Rally Japan during the morning. Having ended the day with two runs through the Kita Aikoku spectator superspecial,...
Sébastien Loeb takes charge...
Sébastien Loeb, Daniel Elena and their Kronos Total Citroën WRT Xsara took the lead of the Rally Japan during the morning. Having ended the day with two runs through the Kita Aikoku spectator superspecial, Seb and Daniel now have a 25.6 second advantage over Marcus Grönholm and Timo Rautiainen. Dani Sordo and Marc Marti were grateful for the more consistent conditions of leg two, and enjoyed a trouble-free day to end up sixth.
As was the case yesterday, the stages took place a long way to the north of Obihiro. They were similar in character to those of the opening day, but this time the weather was notably better. As he settled into the Xsara ready for battle, Sébastien summed up what it would take to come out on top. "It's simple : we will need to be 100% everywhere ! Pushing to the limit, and maybe a bit beyond that if it's necessary..." Marcus Grönholm was equally determined, winning the first two short stages of the day to stretch his lead from 10.5 seconds to 13.1 seconds. On Niueo (SS13) a big effort from Seb halved the gap to just 6.3 seconds.
The reigning World Champions started Sipirkakim (SS14) at a similar pace to try and maintain the momentum, but realised after just six kilometres that they were 18 seconds faster than Grönholm and so had taken the lead of the rally. "We didn't know if Marcus had made a mistake or if he had suffered a technical problem, so we kept pushing at the same rhythm," explained Seb. "It was the right decision : Marcus had spun but he was going quickly again straight away. Nonetheless, we won Menan [SS15] which took our lead to roughly 30 seconds and then we were about equal on time over the second loop of stages where we were still both flat- out. The only place where I slowed down a bit was over the rough sections of Sipirkakim 2. A 25.6 second is good, but not necessarily enough with Marcus pushing so hard behind me. There are about 100 competitive kilometres left, and having pushed hard from the start I'm going to keep pushing hard to the end. Marcus will probably do the same thing, so the battle continues!"
As the sun came out over the Tokachi plain, Dani Sordo had a smile on his face. "For a beginner, it's a lot easier to drive on roads that are more consistent. These stages are tricky enough as it is without the weather making life even more difficult so I'm pleased. Today was much better. On the first loop of stages, our notes were not so good on the sections where we had done the recce in the heavy rain. I made quite a few corrections for the second loop, and with a slight change to the set-up at midday service, I felt a lot more confident. I think I could have gone quicker, but I prefer to err on the side of caution. That's going to be my tactic again tomorrow, and I'm not going to get sucked into a battle with Petter [Solberg] who is right behind me and knows this rally well. My objective is firmly to score manufacturer points."
-credit: kronos racing