Day 1: Two Citroens on the overnight podium in New Zealand The opening day of this year's Rally New Zealand ended with Citroen Total's two C4 WRCs in second and third places overall. Sebastien Loeb/Daniel Elena completed Friday's action just...
Day 1: Two Citroens on the overnight podium in New Zealand
The opening day of this year's Rally New Zealand ended with Citroen Total's two C4 WRCs in second and third places overall. Sebastien Loeb/Daniel Elena completed Friday's action just 27.8s behind the leader, while Dani Sordo/Marc Marti are 30s back and the event is shaping up to be yet another thriller.
The first day of the 11th round of the 2008 World Rally Championship took crews to the Pirongia Forest Park and the Waitomo valley, but its timetable had to be slightly modified following a landslide which compelled the organisers to split the originally planned 43.98km of SS2/4 into two parts. This change meant that the leg's total competitive distance was finally 138km.
Following the conditions they encountered during the two days of recce, both Citroen crews expected the early part of the event to be tough and the results of the morning's loop proved them right. "The terrain is dictating how fast we go," commented Sebastien at the lunchtime break after completing the morning's run in second place, 9.4s behind the early leader. "We can't fault our C4 WRC. Its set-up is perfect for these stages and it is handling excellently. Despite the limited amount of grip that was available, I pushed as hard as I could. We were forced to use hard compound tyres which didn't work well on the cold, hard-packed ground we found this morning. On top of that, we had so much roadsweeping to do that it was really difficult to post quick times, but I haven't given up challenging for the lead."
"It's very frustrating," added his team-mate Dani Sordo. "It was impossible to make full use of our car's potential. The top-coating of gravel was so thick in places that our tyres, which we are no longer allowed to 're-cut', weren't able to eke out enough grip. Even running third on the road, we were still sweeping a clearer line for those running behind us in the order." Dani and Marc nonetheless produced a first class run which took them to fourth place.
Sebastien and Daniel profited from the second loop to apply their tactic: "We pushed has hard as we could," commented the defending World Champion at the end of the afternoon. "We even closed to within seven tenths of the lead by the end of SS4.1. Unfortunately, we stalled before the start of SS4.2 and the engine refused to fire up again. We had to push the car to get it started and we checked in late. That cost us valuable time which we will need to try to claw back tomorrow."
In the No.2 C4 WRC, Dani and Marc produced a fine run during the afternoon: "I tried to profit as much as I could from the competitiveness of our car," explained the young Spanish driver. "Given the conditions, I'm quite pleased with our day and we are in a good position for tomorrow."
"Both our cars are within half a minute of the overnight leaders, so I am relatively happy with the way the day has gone," concluded Olivier Quesnel. "Sebastien and Daniel limited the damage brilliantly and they could even have been in front this evening had it not been for a minor mechanical problem. They will try to recover the lead tomorrow. Dani and Marc put in the sort of drive that we asked of them. Their objective was to finish as close as possible to the front-runners and they are currently third, so our overnight positions aren't bad at all. There is still a very long way to go and a great deal can still happen. I'm also pleased with the performance of Urmo Aava and Kuldar Sikk who are sixth in the Citroen Sport Technologies C4 WRC."