Leg 2: Citroen and Sebastien Loeb pass in front Sebastien Loeb and Daniel Elena will start the final day of the 2007 Rally New Zealand in the lead with their Citroen C4 WRC. Saturday's six stages, which were contested at a blistering pace, saw...
Leg 2: Citroen and Sebastien Loeb pass in front
Sebastien Loeb and Daniel Elena will start the final day of the 2007 Rally New Zealand in the lead with their Citroen C4 WRC. Saturday's six stages, which were contested at a blistering pace, saw them take command while their team-mates Dani Sordo and Marc Marti completed the overcast day in provisional sixth place.
The second leg of the season's eleventh round took crews to the northwest of Hamilton for a programme of slightly more than 130km of competitive action and, for once, with the exception of the super-special, the day was made up entirely of stages that were contested one time only. The thrilling showdown between Sebastien Loeb and Marcus Gronholm continued unabated today and could be split into two halves, with Sebastien Loeb, Daniel Elena and their Citroen C4 WRC winning the morning's round.
"Thanks to the good information I was given by Citroen Sport," explained Seb, "we decided to go for medium compound BFGoodrich tyres whereas our rivals opted for a softer choice. I knew I wouldn't have an easy time on SS7 which was muddy and twisty, but I believed I could be quicker on SS6 and SS8. The morning went to plan, although I dropped more time than anticipated on SS7 and then made a small mistake on the super-special. On the whole, it was a very positive morning however. I was very happy with the performance of my Citroen and we managed to pull back much of our deficit. We are now only four seconds off the lead with everything to play for..."
The afternoon's stages kicked off with the 31.92km Te Akau South stage which saw Seb and Daniel switch to hard compound tyres intended for dry, hard-wearing terrain. The ensuing scrap was superb. Despite being shown as behind by all the split times, Sebastien succeeded in putting in a final strong effort through the closing corners to claim the stage ahead of Gronholm by the slender margin of three tenths of a second, which left the pair separated by a mere 3.7s going into the 32.36km Te Akau North test (SS11).
"As my tyres reached their ideal working temperature, my split times began to improve and I ended up setting the fastest time on SS10," observed Seb. "I then gave it everything I had over the day's last stage and we also won that to take the lead, although we really weren't sure whether we had made the best tyre choice. We knew, however, that we had made a better choice than that of our rivals. I am pleased with our day and our C4 performed faultlessly. That said, the gap is still very small and I can only presume it won't be a very restful Sunday!"
"As we saw yesterday, tyres are playing a very important role this weekend," commented Guy Frequelin. "At Citroen Sport, we made two inspired choices and Sebastien and Daniel profited from that to bridge the gap and ultimately ease ahead. But after 258km of stages, the gap is only 1.7 seconds, which is nothing! The final day features 96km of competitive action and consequently promises to be very close and stressful. The Rally New Zealand puts the accent on driving skill and, to obtain a good result, you need to have complete confidence in your notes, your ability and your car. On such a fast event, where experience counts for so much, Dani Sordo has yet to combine all these parameters and he is having trouble finding the ideal pace. Even so, I am sure he will succeed in finding the key to a good run in New Zealand before the finish."