Both Citroen C4 WRCs in a strong position The first full day of the Rally de Portugal has seen the two Citroen Total World Rally Team crews emerge in a strong position in terms of their chances for a top result on Sunday. After emerging in front...
Both Citroen C4 WRCs in a strong position
The first full day of the Rally de Portugal has seen the two Citroen Total World Rally Team crews emerge in a strong position in terms of their chances for a top result on Sunday. After emerging in front before the lunchtime break, Dani Sordo and Marc Marti ended the leg in second position, just ahead of team-mates Sebastien Loeb and Daniel Elena.
The Portuguese round officially started on Thursday evening with a super-special held in the Estadio Algarve, within the immediate vicinity of the service park. After this short appetiser, serious business kicked off this morning with a first loop of three stages to the north of Faro.
By the end of SS2 (Ourique 1), Sebastien Loeb was more than 25 seconds down on the early leader, a deficit due not to the fact that he was having to sweep a line through the loose top-coating of gravel as first driver on the road, but because of a 'straight on' shortly after the stage's start. "It happened a kilometre or so into the stage, at the first place which called for really heavy braking from sixth gear. To avoid running the risk of swiping the small bridge which came after the second-gear left-hand corner, I decided to overshoot instead. We then unfortunately found ourselves in our own dust and I couldn't see the road! It took around 15 seconds for the dust to clear sufficiently for us to rejoin the stage. After that, I lacked a little confidence under braking and it took me a few kilometres to get back into the swing."
Although the five-time World Champion succeeded in recovering some of the lost ground with a fastest time on SS4, it was his team-mate Dani Sordo who showed up at the midday service halt on top of the standings: "It's obviously an advantage to be running behind Sebastien and Mikko Hirvonen on the road, but I still feel I drove well this morning. I'm not on the limit and I will try to keep up the same sort of pace this afternoon." Despite his error on SS2, Sebastien Loeb was pleased with his morning, too: "It looked like Latvala wanted to profit from his position on the road to pull out a big gap, but he made a mistake which has dropped him from contention. I don't have a problem with being around 20 seconds down on the leader at this point..."
After the 30-minute service halt at the Estadio Algarve, crews headed out for a second attempt at the same loop of stages. Ourique 2 saw Dani Sordo fall from the lead when he suffered the same misadventure as his team-mate earlier in the day: "I got my braking wrong at exactly the same place and, like Sebastien, ended up losing time in my own dust," he related. The next stage, however, enabled the Spaniard to make amends in style by claiming the fastest time!
The day ended with another best time for the Citroen C4 WRC, this time in the hands of Sebastien Loeb again. Meanwhile, Marcus Gronholm fell back, allowing the two C4 WRCs through to take second and third places.
"I am very happy with my day," smiled Dani Sordo at the end of the leg. "I am in a good position to keep up the fight. Mikko, Sebastien, Marcus, Petter Solberg and I are all bunched within 45 seconds, so we will doubtlessly see a fierce scrap tomorrow. I think we can look forward to a good day's sport; I can't wait..."
"I was expecting Mikko Hirvonen to lift on the final stage but he played it fair and square by electing to stay in the lead," concluded Sebastien Loeb. "There have been no tactical games and everyone has held position which is a very good thing, although I must admit that I'm glad I'm not first on the road tomorrow. Nothing is by any means over yet, though, and I think I showed today that it was possible to post quick times despite the handicap of roadsweeping."