Leg 1: The CitroÃ«n C4 WRC brushes the difficulties aside The opening day of the 2007 Rally Norway has finished with SÃ©bastien Loeb, Daniel Elena and their CitroÃ«n C4 WRC sitting in 3r d place, while their CitroÃ«n team-mates...
Leg 1: The Citroën C4 WRC brushes the difficulties aside
The opening day of the 2007 Rally Norway has finished with Sébastien Loeb, Daniel Elena and their Citroën C4 WRC sitting in 3r d place, while their Citroën team-mates Dani Sordo and Marc Martí parked up in tonight's parc ferme in Hamar in 14th place.
The inclusion of a second wintry fixture in the calendar coming straight after the Swedish Rally raised a number of questions concerning not only the profile and speed of the newcomer's stages but also the importance of having to run first on the road and having to do 'road-sweeping' duty, as Seb was forced to today.
The first leg, the longest of the event, featured a programme of eight stages, including the notorious 30.03 km `Løten' test which Guy Fréquelin had earmarked as particularly difficult. "There'll be some big gaps at the end of SS1," he predicted during yesterday's shakedown, and he was right. Indeed, this was the only stage that the drivers covered twice today and it effectively had a big influence on tonight's provisional order.
"I didn't drive very well first time through," admitted Sébastien Loeb. "I wasn't happy with my pacenotes either. They were a bit overoptimistic and I even made a small mistake not far from the finish." The three-time World Champion and his Citroën C4 WRC posted the fourth best time, 17 seconds behind the leader. And he fared little better on the second pass. "After 70 cars had been through, it had cut up quite badly," he reported from the remote lunchtime service zone in Kirkenær. "There was me thinking I would have a clear stage ahead of me and it turned out to be even worse than the first pass. Once again I found myself sweeping aside a clearer line for those running behind me in the order. We came across the same phenomenon in Sweden and being first on the road really is a big handicap." The second pass saw Seb lose 15.6s which dropped him to 28s behind the leader.
A score of five fastest times from a possible eight today for the Frenchman nonetheless highlighted the potential of the Citroën C4 WRC when the playing field was level, and that enabled him to complete the first day in 3r d place, just 1.8s off 2nd spot and 17.3s adrift of the leader. "We really pushed hard this afternoon. I gave it everything I could in a bid to close the gap with the two guys ahead of me. Running 13th on the road tomorrow should be a good position from which to mount an attack."
Continuing his apprenticeship of competing on snow, Dani Sordo started the day cautiously. "As in Sweden," explained the 2005 Junior World Champion, "my aim here is to try and score points for Citroën. I knew before the start it wouldn't be easy because the stages are slow and technical, which doesn't play in my favour. But even though my times are still some way off the best, I am happy with my day. I am especially pleased with the performance of my C4 WRC. I am feeling increasingly confident with it. The set-up changes we made have brought a big improvement."
At the end of Leg 1, Guy Fréquelin was swift to underline Sébastien Loeb's harvest of fastest times and Dani Sordo's consistency: "Stages 1 and 3 weren't good for us. But apart from that, Sébastien has once again shown the potential of the Citroën C4 WRC. Our choice of tyres from the BFGoodrich g-Force Ice range also paid off. This evening, Seb could have been even closer to the lead but for a straight-on on SS5 and had he not stalled at the start of SS6. That's a good pointer for tomorrow when Seb should have the same conditions as his rivals. Dani's day was what I was expecting. His times are improving in sequences and that's a good sign."