Taking place in sunny conditions, the second leg of Rally New Zealand saw the Xsaras make significant progress. This rising performance curve allowed SÃ©bastien Loeb and Carlos Sainz to consolidate their positions. This evening, the CitroÃ«n...
Taking place in sunny conditions, the second leg of Rally New Zealand saw the Xsaras make significant progress. This rising performance curve allowed Sébastien Loeb and Carlos Sainz to consolidate their positions. This evening, the Citroën drivers are lying in fifth and sixth positions in the rally classification.
Having spent yesterday morning ‘sweeping’ the road for those following him, Sébastien Loeb took advantage of the end of the first leg to draw up a report on the behavior of his Xsara over the very specific conditions found in New Zealand. These first conclusions resulted in a number of changes, which had to take place during the 45-minute service which, due to the "Mille Pistes" format, took place this morning instead of yesterday evening.
By the end of the first loop of the day, a set of four special stages which he had already been run last year, the driver from Alsace could rightly be satisfied with his results : three fourth fastest times, and one third place. " I am pushing as hard as I can. We have made a number of little changes, which are all going in the right directions, even if I wish they would make even more difference as far as the times are concerned. We are not far behind the best times… We still need to find some grip, and to try and stabilise the rear of the car… "
Engineers had prepared some new set-up options, and the Xsara was thereby modified. During the second group of four stages, Sébastien launched himself on an all-out attack, and his score-card improved, with two third-fastest times, one second and a superb fastest time in the "Waipu Gorge" stage. This was the first stage win for "Seb" and Citroën in New Zealand ! "This stage win is a great pleasure for Daniel and myself, but it is also a real reward for the hard work put in by the whole team… "
Carlos Sainz’s performance also helped build up the team, and his Xsara progressed almost as quickly as that of his young team-mate. "The service stop half-way through the day really helped,” the double World Champion explained. “During the first loop, I must admit that I did not drive particularly well. I did not make as many changes as Sébastien. However, I felt much more confident during the second part of the day. Tomorrow morning, I will go as far as Sébastien did in the set-up changes. It will be interesting to see how our cars behave in the special stages which, the first time round, will be significantly less ‘clean’ than those of this afternoon… "
Guy Fréquelin was quite naturally satisfied with the progress made : " I would obviously have liked to see us running from the very beginning at the sort of pace we are setting now. The level of competition is really high in rallying and if you aren’t coming with the right set-up, you get a difficult gap to catch up straight away.
But you have to be realistic, and not forget that this is only the second time that Citroën has raced over this terrain. Citroën is also the only manufacturer who has never completed any tests here. The progress we mad today are an investment in the future…”