Citroen on top in the Algarve Sebastien Loeb and Daniel Elena completed the first full day of the 2007 Rally de Portugal in first place, while their Citroen C4 WRC team-mates Dani Sordo and Marc Marti reached this evening's parc ferme in ...
Citroen on top in the Algarve
Sebastien Loeb and Daniel Elena completed the first full day of the 2007 Rally de Portugal in first place, while their Citroen C4 WRC team-mates Dani Sordo and Marc Marti reached this evening's parc ferme in 5th position.
After kicking off yesterday evening with a super-special in the Algarve Stadium, the opening leg continued today with a menu of three stages to be contested twice each. The Rally de Portugal is no newcomer to the World Rally Championship since it was an established round of the series until 2001, but this is the first time it has been organised in the country's Algarve region.
Today's tests went by the names of 'Tavira', 'S. Bras de Alportel' and 'Serra de Tavira' which have yet to gain the legendary status of former Portuguese classics 'Fafe' and 'Arganil', but their complexity could well see them become household names in rallying circles sooner rather than later, as predicted by both Citroen Sport crews. "This isn't going to be an easy rally," anticipated Sebastien Loeb. "The blind crests and corners were difficult to note and there was a real risk of not finding the ideal pace first time through the stages," added Daniel Elena. "I've already been to Faro twice," remarked Dani Sordo, "but the stage surfaces are different to what I saw last year. They are harder on the tyres." "Despite our prior knowledge of the event," concluded Marc Marti, "we will take things cautiously because this promises to be a very complex rally..."
These different observations were corroborated by the morning's run. "My notes were a little optimistic in several places," admitted Seb at lunchtime service. "That resulted in one or two hairy moments. The different types of surface made tyre choices difficult but the compromises we made enabled us to set the fastest time on SS4 which took us to within 2.6s of the lead." Meanwhile, Dani was looking to perfect the set-up of the second Citroen C4 WRC: "My style calls for a precise car and I need to find a set-up in which I have total confidence."
The combination of the set-up changes made by the Citroen Sport squad during the half-hour midday service halt and the switch to very hard compound BFGoodrich tyres enabled Seb and Daniel to notch up two further fastest stage times during the afternoon (SS6 and SS7) and move into 1 place with a lead of 3.1s over their closest chasers. "My objective this afternoon was to try to mov e into lead in order to start after Marcus on the road tomorrow and therefore benefit from knowledge of his split times. After SS5, I modified my set-up again in an attempt to find extra grip. My C4 wasn't quite as precise but I did have more grip and that was a big help over today's last two stages which were technically very challenging. We also succeeded in opening up a gap in that stage because I was able to spare my tyres in the previous ones."
The context was different for Dani. "I'm still not quick enough through the slower portions which were quite frequent today," explained the young Spaniard. "It's a little better than in Mexico but I still need to progress."
Guy Frequelin had predicted t at the Rally de Portugal promised to be true to its legend despite its switch to the Algarve region and was consequently not surprised by the day's proceedings. "The stages were quite hazardous in places and there was every reason to be wary of the conditions which included a large number of buried stones. The team reacted well after the morning's loop to find extra grip and I also think that Sebastien succeeded in making a difference thanks to his sound tyre management. Dani is a little further back but it mustn't be forgotten that he still has a great deal to learn. There's not much in it this evening and I think the expected rain could change everything. It's almost a different event that starts tomorrow, so caution still prevails..."