Three Xsaras in the points... At the end of a very difficult first leg, run in intensely hot conditions, SÃ©bastien Loeb and Daniel Elena occupy second place in the provisional classification, 35.4 seconds behind Marcus GrÃ¶nholm. Dani Sordo and...
Three Xsaras in the points...
At the end of a very difficult first leg, run in intensely hot conditions, Sébastien Loeb and Daniel Elena occupy second place in the provisional classification, 35.4 seconds behind Marcus Grönholm. Dani Sordo and Marc Marti are fifth while Xevi Pons and Carlos Del Barrio are eighth. All three Citroen Xsara crews from the Kronos Racing Team are therefore in strong points-scoring positions for both championships.
During the recce, Sébastien Loeb noted that the stages scheduled for today were covered in a thick layer of sand, loose gravel, or tiny stones. By virtue of running first on the road, he was forced to sweep it clean for the following competitors during the first loop of stages. " It's the price you have to pay for leading the championship, " said Seb. " I'm hoping that I'll pay it for the rest of the season ! On the first stage, Terranova, I wasn't in a particularly good rhythm. Marcus [Grönholm] set off at a very fast pace, and because of the three- minute gap between the cars [owing to the amount of dust on the stages] I didn't get his first split time until a third of the way through the stage. I tried to react, but I had already given too much time away. On the remaining two stages of that loop, I drove very quickly in order to try and reverse the trend. I was very curious to know what it would be like on the second run through the stages, on abrasive roads that had already been swept clean of loose gravel. We won two out of the three stages and got back five seconds. Tomorrow, when road conditions are equal for everybody, there are a few more things that we can try. I'm going to do everything I can to have a go at reducing the gap. It should be a really good battle, just as myself and Marcus both like it... "
Xevi Pons, who started 10th, found " roads that had been swept clean, but were also very rough in places, with lots of loose stones that had been pulled out. " The Spaniard steered a careful course over " stages that were very difficult and narrow, making it impossible to slide the car at all. " During the second loop of stages, he had an unsettling incident on Onani [SS5] when his handbrake lever broke. " I think this incident caused the handbrake to remain slightly on until the end of the stage, " said Xevi. " Before Siniscola [SS6] we were able to carry out running repairs which were not perfect but just about did the job. On the same stage we punctured both tyres on the right hand side, but these remained inflated thanks to the mousse. All in all, it's been a good day. Tomorrow I think I'll up my pace a bit, as I reckon we can do something good here... "
Dani Sordo reprised his role as Kronos Racing's third man, under no pressure whatsoever. The Spaniard ended his day in style with a solid fourth-fastest time in Siniscola [SS6]. "It was a stage where I had already had a lot of fun in the morning, with the very fast and narrow section at the end, " he said. " The slight understeer I had in the morning was corrected by the team at service, giving me a perfect car for the afternoon's stages. I made no mistakes and had a lot of fun. It means that I am now fifth, and very, very happy... "
" The contest for victory seems to me to be still wide open, " pointed out Marc Van Dalen, Team Principal of Kronos Racing. "Thirty seconds is worth a lot but at the same time very little. Seb and Daniel are more than capable of making up the gap. They already did it once in Mexico, and in any case they have to try... "