Loeb in the lead, Sainz third The Xsara WRCs of Sebastien Loeb/Daniel Elena and Carlos Sainz/MarcMarti returned to Leon tonight lying in first and third positions respectively. They are therefore in excellent places heading into the longest leg...
Loeb in the lead, Sainz third
The Xsara WRCs of Sebastien Loeb/Daniel Elena and Carlos Sainz/MarcMarti returned to Leon tonight lying in first and third positions respectively. They are therefore in excellent places heading into the longest leg of the rally tomorrow.
Until this morning, the first 'world' running of the Mexican event looked like being an equation with several real variables, with brand-new terrain, high altitudes (an average of 2 300 m), and special stages that were new to most of the competitors. This inaugural journey to Mexico was also made more spicy by the fact that a number of new rules concerning the reconnaissance, service and tyres were also being enforced for the first time. The teams were facing a fine array of question marks...
At the end of the first leg, Citroën, with two cars placed in the top three, can rightly estimate that it has answered correctly all the questions that were being asked. As Sebastien Loeb explained : "Despite some small brake problems, which meant that the pedal was a bit 'long' towards the end of the special stages, it has been a good day !" The French driver has adapted well to the new tyre regulations, which meant that each driver has a quota of sixty tyres in Mexico.
On stage 1 Seb' suffered from a puncture in the front right tyre but did not loose any time thanks to the mousse of the Michelin ATS system. He chose to put this tyre on the rear right side for SS2, where he set the best time, while still retaining an unused spare tyre !
Another reason for satisfaction for the Championship leader : "Last night's rain cancelled out the 'sweeper' role that I might have had to play, as I was first on the road. I don't think I lost any time due to that, except perhaps in SS3, when I also lost a few seconds by stalling in a hairpin." Taking the lead thanks to the misadventure of Petter Solberg, who was four minutes late at the last service's "in control", Sebastien considers that he has a good chance, but still remains very cautious : "They are forecasting rain for tomorrow. That is not 'seasonal' weather, and it could create some surprises."
Carlos Sainz drove the first two-stage loop with slightly different suspension settings to those used by his team-mate. "This option could have been very competitive on dry ground, but it proved to be slightly too 'hard' for the damp stages we had today."
The Spaniard therefore chose a softer option, and had an identical set-up to Sebastien for the second two stages. "It was better. But I still lacked grip, I was sliding too much, and the tyres from the quota, which we had chosen four weeks ago, are perhaps slightly too 'hard' for the weather we have at the moment. Like Sebastien, I had some small brake problems, which the team has worked on. To finish, I would like to say that it has been a difficult day for me, due to the events in my country, which meant that I had to work hard to concentrate on the event..."