After a challenging and demanding first leg, SÃ©bastien Loeb, Daniel Elena and their Xsara WRC are leading Wales Rally GB tonight, while Carlos Sainz and Marc Marti lie in fifth. The twelfth round of the FIA World Rally Championship poses two ...
After a challenging and demanding first leg, Sébastien Loeb, Daniel Elena and their Xsara WRC are leading Wales Rally GB tonight, while Carlos Sainz and Marc Marti lie in fifth.
The twelfth round of the FIA World Rally Championship poses two questions to the Citroën team. One concerning weather and road conditions now the event is being held two months earlier than previous years. The other, the strategy that Championship leader Sébastien Loeb would chose - to attack with panache or drive with calculated defence.
Early this morning - around 2.00 am - rain started to fall on the Swansea area, flooding the rally stages. Even in September, Wales Rally GB can look like the more familiar "RAC" with conditions as slippery and muddy as those in November.
When Sébastien won the first stage this morning - Brechfa 1- he answered the question about tactics. He took the rally lead and also set the fastest time on the following stage (SS3). "We had a clean run and our tyre choice was good (soft compound). For once in the season, starting first on the road hasn't penalised me. I must say that I like these stages but I'm very careful with the changes of grip. We can push more on the sections with hard ground, but we are cautious in the slippery places."
On the second pass, the stages were covered in a thick layer of mud, making the roads very tricky to drive. Despite being careful, Seb and Carlos could not avoid a few "hot moments" without consequence. Sébastien remained focused and kept his pace, even in the last two runs through the rally's longest stage "Rheola". "On this kind of terrain, it's difficult to find the right rhythm - it needs to be fast but controlled. Conditions were extremely tricky in the last two stages with some fog becoming thicker and thicker in Rheola 2. In some places, I had to brake before seeing the corner. My plan was to drive as I felt on the first day, and look at the results. Leading tonight after such a day gives me the choice of tactics, and I like that."
Fifth tonight, Carlos Sainz felt disappointed that he could not commit himself into a battle with his chasers as most of them lost time in the fog on the last stage. "I've tried a different set-up this morning but it didn't pay off as I expected but I had to keep it for four stages. Then I came back to the original set-up we selected for the event and the car is fine now. So let's see how it goes tomorrow".