Sebastien Loeb/Daniel Elena and Francois Duval/Sven Smeets today continued to monopolise the top two slots of the provisional leaderboard after dominating the 2005 Deutschland Rally since the start thanks to a clean sweep of fastest times over all...
Sebastien Loeb/Daniel Elena and Francois Duval/Sven Smeets today continued to monopolise the top two slots of the provisional leaderboard after dominating the 2005 Deutschland Rally since the start thanks to a clean sweep of fastest times over all the stages contested so far.
Today's action took place on dry roads and kicked off in the Saarland region with Bosenberg (SS7) in which both Citroen drivers suffered a scare when Sebastien span - although with little time loss, since he went on to set the best time - while Francois had a minor off: "There was a patch of gravel before a medium fast right. I only dropped perhaps ten or so seconds but I also damaged the brake cooling ducts. At the following Stop Control, there was smoke coming from the front wheels and the marshals sprayed my right wheel with water. The sudden change in temperature caused the disc to crack. For the Panzerplatte stage, I changed my brake bias to take the strain off the front and the disc ultimately held."
This minor incident nonetheless caused Guy Frequelin some concern and prompted him to repeat his call for caution. After giving the matter considerable thought, he had effectively asked his two crews earlier in the morning to hold the positions they had pulled out during the opening day: "We are in something of an exceptional situation. It's obviously nice to find yourself 1st and 2nd with such a big cushion this early on. But it also means you have to manage the situation and it's difficult not to feel a little tense since you've got more to lose than win."
The message of Citroen Sport's boss was heard loud and clear since Sebastien and Francois went on to drive quickly, but also consistently and safely at their own respective paces which they based on those of their closest chasers.
"I upped my pace through the cleaner portions," explained Seb, "but took things more carefully wherever there was gravel on the road. A day like today is obviously less fun than when you've got a good fight on your hands. But knowing how to control from in front is part of a rally driver's job. Given the gaps, there wasn't much else to do."
"We tried to be just quick enough without giving too much away," underlined Francois. "Just enough for the car to still be comfortable to drive and to stay concentrated. It would have been risky for me to try to win at all costs. Sebastien wouldn't have simply stood back and let me pass. To have fought each other wouldn't have made sense. I am really pleased this evening. I feel comfortable with the car and my confidence is back."
Seb and Francois are in a strong position to secure a possible one-two finish tomorrow, but first they must get through tomorrow's six stages - which total 90 km - without trouble. "Sunday's stages are fast," warns Sebastien, "and our road position means we could well come across gravel thrown up by the preceding cars. We will therefore be on our guards and I sincerely hope we succeed in claiming a fantastic result for Citroen."