The Citroen DS3 WRC's Brush Off The Snow!
On the first day of Rally Sweden, the new World Rally cars were at last able to do battle with the stop watch - and one another! After spending the whole of the first day sweeping off the thick layer of freshly-fallen snow, Sebastien Loeb and Daniel Elena lost a great deal of time. Sebastien Ogier and Julien Ingrassia, who were also faced with these very special conditions, finished the leg and gave the DS3 WRC its first fastest time. The Citroen Total World Rally Team crew is currently lying sixth in the overall classification.
After taking part in a super stage yesterday evening on the Karlstad horse racing course, this morning at 06h00 the crews set off for Hagfors. After a quick stop in the service park, Sebastien Loeb and Daniel Elena were the first out on the road to tackle the stages covered by a thick layer of snow, which has fallen non-stop since Thursday morning.
Throughout the whole of the first loop, the 7-time world championship crew saw the gaps opening up in front of them: "The gap is mainly due to the fact that we've been doing little else than sweeping the roads. The conditions are very difficult with all the snow that we have to sweep off. But we've had a good run even if it was impossible to maintain the same pace as the drivers who started behind us. The car reacts very quickly and it's got good balance. We're surfing on the snow as we can't plant the studs in the ice."
Ogier and Ingrassia were able to take advantage of more favourable conditions due to their fourth place on the road, and were quicker despite their lack of experience on this type of surface: "I had a good feeling in SS3, but I felt less at home in the narrowest sections, which were covered with fresh snow. I'm trying to lose as little time as possible."
The crew in the no. 2 DS3 WRC upped their pace in the afternoon. On roads that had been swept and sometimes scraped down to the gravel -- in the first passage they set the quickest combined time of the three specials of the loop. In the closing minutes of the day, Ogier gave the DS3 WRC its first fastest time in Likenas 2 (SS6). "This scratch is just a detail," said Ogier. "What's important is the fact that we were the quickest in the three stages. It's very encouraging for the future. We're in the groove and we'll have a better starting position on the second day. Even if the weather's going to be different with cold, dry conditions, we should be well placed to take advantage of it."
Loeb's bad day continued as he had a puncture on the left-hand front tyre fifteen kilometres from the finish of SS7: "We completed the stage trying to lose as little time as possible. Our chances of a podium finish are seriously compromised. We'll just have to fight to score as many points as we can."
Olivier Quesnel, the Citroen Racing Team Principal, summed up as follows: "We've begun this rally in the worst possible weather conditions. Because of the snow that fell during the night, Sebastien Loeb acted as a snow plough for most of the day! In addition, he had a puncture. On the other hand, Sebastien Ogier's put on a great performance despite his relative lack of experience in snow rallies. The car's shown its potential with our two drivers, and also with Petter Solberg, who's third at the moment. It's already a cause for satisfaction."