Citroen driver Sebastien Loeb has consolidated his lead on the 10th round of the FIA World Rally Championship, the Rallye Deutschland, which continued today. The young Frenchman lost time with damaged steering and a high-speed spin, but he...
Citroen driver Sebastien Loeb has consolidated his lead on the 10th round of the FIA World Rally Championship, the Rallye Deutschland, which continued today. The young Frenchman lost time with damaged steering and a high-speed spin, but he recovered to arrive at the evening
superspecial that closed the day's action nearly 19 seconds ahead of reigning world champion Richard Burns. Current series leader Marcus Grönholm has set several fastest times today as he recovered from the hydraulic problems that slowed him yesterday, and he holds third overall.
Today's stages were based in the notoriously rough and bumpy Baumholder military ranges, and they caught out several crews. Subaru's Petter Solberg and Achim Mortl both retired after accidents, as did Skoda's Toni Gardemeister and Hyundai driver Armin Schwarz.
Technical: Philippe Bugalski was forced to retire his Xsara WRC after this morning's first stage. The Frenchman damaged his exhaust in the test, but then on the road section to the next stage it broke an oil pipe and the engine would no longer run. Sebastien Loeb's car has been generally reliable, although he did knock his steering out of line in SS12.
Sporting: Sebastien Loeb has consolidated his overnight lead during today's stages, but it hasn't been a straightforward day's action for the young Frenchman. He swapped seconds with second-placed Richard Burns in the opening stages, but then lost time to his rivals when he clipped a rock and knocked his car's steering out of line in SS12. He also spun in sixth gear in the same stage and his lead was cut to around six seconds as a result, but he retaliated in SS13 to ease his advantage back up to 19 seconds again. Loeb entered this evening's closing superspecial ahead by the same margin, still on course for his first world championship rally victory. His team-mate Philippe Bugalski won't be around to lend support, though - he retired after SS9 with a broken oil pipe.
Quotes: Sebastien Loeb said: "I have to be quite pleased with today - it hasn't been perfect but it could have been much worse. I had a very big spin in SS12, at around 160kph, and we also damaged the steering in that stage as well. I had to do SS13 with the same problem so I was surprised when we set fastest time. I'm trying to keep the same speed as the guys behind, because that way we won't have to take many risks and we can keep our lead at this level. I can still win - I'm quite confident." Philippe Bugalski said: "There was no way we could continue, because the pipe broke and we lost all of the oil. It's very frustrating, because once the pipe was fixed and more oil was put in, the car worked fine. But that's life."
Technical: The 206 WRCs of both Marcus Grönholm and Richard Burns have been reliable today, but the third car of Harri Rovanperä encountered hydraulic pressure problems on today's third stage.
Sporting: Richard Burns has maintained his second position today, closing in briefly on Sebastien Loeb when the leader knocked his car's steering out of line in SS12. But Burns dropped a few seconds in turn on the following test, and he entered today's closing superspecial near Trier 19 seconds behind the top spot. His team-mate Marcus Grönholm charged this morning, though, setting two fastest times as he passed both Colin McRae and Philippe Bugalski to move into third overall. The Finn consolidated that place this afternoon. Harri Rovanperä missed out on the chance of a top-10 placing when he lost time with hydraulic pressure problems in stages 11, 12 and 13.
Quotes: Marcus Grönholm said: "We've tried hard to make up time today but we could obviously do with making up some more. I'm not sure what will happen tomorrow - maybe it's still possible to try to catch Richard but Sebastien looks very far ahead of us now." Richard Burns said: "It's been a reasonable day, although the conditions have obviously been tricky and tyre choice has been difficult. Sebastien's still got a bit of an advantage but the stages tomorrow are different again so we'll have to wait and see what happens tomorrow morning."
Technical: The Focus RS WRC02s of Colin McRae, Carlos Sainz and Markko Martin have been reliable today. Sainz, however, had to cope with two punctures in SS14 and SS15, although Pirelli's anti-deflation mousse system prevented any serious time loss. Martin also complained of too stiff a suspension set-up for the closing pair of stages over the Baumholder ranges.
Sporting: Colin McRae and Carlos Sainz have both maintained their positions today, although neither looks likely to challenge the Peugeots or the leading Citroen. McRae has consolidated his fourth place, while Sainz lost time to Solberg in the early stages, then moved up to fifth once the Norwegian and second Citroen driver Philippe Bugalski retired. The third Focus driver, Markko Martin, entered this evening's closing stage in eighth overall, but less than three seconds behind Francois Delecour.
Quotes: Colin McRae said: "It's been going okay today and our tyre choices haven't been too bad in the mixed conditions, but we can't really challenge the Peugeots or the Citroen on speed alone. All we can do is maintain a good pace, try to keep what pressure we can on them and see what happens." Carlos Sainz said: "It has been a difficult day, mainly because of tyre choice. We've been having to guess what the weather will do in service, but this morning we got it wrong and it was hard to read the amount of grip that was at each corner. "
Technical: The remaining Lancer Evo WRC2 of Francois Delecour has been reliable today.
Sporting: Mitsubishi's Lancer Evo WRC2 has been better suited to today's stages in the Baumholder military ranges, and this morning's rain conditions seemed to help its cause even further. Francois Delecour capitalised, moving up the leaderboard and even setting second fastest time on one stage. He started this evening's superspecial near Trier in seventh overall.
Quotes: Francois Delecour said: "We've gone back to some much earlier settings - to the ones that we found a few weeks ago instead of the ones that we settled on at the pre-event test here - and it's worked. I've been struggling under braking all rally and now it's much more progressive and predictable, so I've got much more confidence. That's made a big difference. I also think the wider roads today have helped, because they suit this car more than the narrow vineyard lanes."
Technical: Tommi Mäkinen's Impreza WRC2002 has been reliable today, and Petter Solberg's example also ran without problems until he damaged it terminally in an accident in SS11.
Sporting: Subaru lost two more of its four entries today. Achim Mortl put his Impreza off the road on this morning's opening stage, and then Petter Solberg - who'd moved ahead of Carlos Sainz and towards the top six on the first two tests - slid off and hit a rock in SS11. The impact ripped the right-rear wheel and much of the suspension off the car, and although he reached the end of the stage he was unable to go any further. Tommi Mäkinen, meanwhile, has rediscovered confidence in his car's handling after reverting to an older set-up this morning. The Finn has pushed his way into the top 10 as a result.
Quotes: Petter Solberg said: "There was a small bump in quite a fast corner and it was enough to unbalance the car and we went off. There was a rock and I knew as soon as we hit it that the damage was bad. There was absolutely no way we could get to the following stage, let alone the one after. I was pushing, of course, but it's the first real 'moment' that I've had all event so it's disappointing for it to result in a retirement." Tommi Mäkinen said: "We changed back to a set-up that we had a few months ago and it's given me a much better feeling with the car. Changing the suspension and differential settings means that the car's much easier and more comfortable for me to drive, so I can commit more. I'm glad to have at least found this, even if we're already a long way behind."
Technical: Kenneth Eriksson, meanwhile, hit major problems this morning. His car broke a section of its propshaft on the start line of SS9, and the veteran Swede couldn't go above 30kph before the resulting vibration became so bad that he was unable to see. He also lost boost on the same test. Toni Gardemeister's Octavia was reliable this morning, although it developed an idling fault in the middle loop of three stages. The Finn then damaged the car with an accident in SS14 and although he struggled to the end of the stage, he was unable to continue.
Sporting: Toni Gardemeister spent much of this morning battling with Markko Martin and Francois Delecour on the fringes of the top ten, but although the young Finn fought his way into ninth after the middle loop of three stages, he slid off the road in SS14. He struggled to the end of the test but was unable to continue. Kenneth Eriksson's hopes of inching into the top 10 were dealt a major blow on today's opening stage, when the Swede's Octavia broke its prop shaft on the start line. He arrived at this evening's superspecial in 12th overall.
Quotes: Kenneth Eriksson said: "We've had all sorts of problems today - in fact, after this morning I'm actually pleased that we're still going. The propshaft problem this morning was so bad, because it basically straight off the line and we couldn't see anything when we went above 30kph."
Technical: Freddy Loix's Accent retired before it could even reach first service this morning. The engine in the Belgian's car lacked oil pressure, and the Hyundai team believes the problem is related to the misfire that it suffered yesterday evening. Armin Schwarz's car ran reliably in the opening test, but he retired when he rolled off the road in SS10.
Sporting: Hyundai's fortunes nosedived in the space of a few hours this morning. First, Freddy Loix was unable to reach the day's first service after his Accent lacked oil pressure when he tried to fire it up in parc ferme. Then Armin Schwarz rolled heavily in the day's second test and retired on the spot. The German and his navigator Manfred Hiemer were both taken to hospital suffering from shock, and Schwarz was diagnosed with a fractured and dislocated rib.
Quotes: Armin Schwarz said: "That was one of the biggest accidents of my career and quite frightening. We had to start SS10 with a right-rear puncture and then I'm not sure what happened. Under braking at about 120kph, we just went off the road to the left. The left-front of the car hit a tree and then we bounced across and got lodged in a tree to the right."
Belgian Ford driver Francois Duval has stamped his authority on the Junior World Championship section of the event. Overnight leader Sven Haaf succumbed to engine problems early this morning, and his nearest rival Niall McShea crashed heavily this afternoon, leaving the Ulsterman and navigator Michael Orr in hospital for checks. Duval's chief pursuers are Daniel Sola and Andrea Dallavilla - the latter has been among the quickest in the class today, as he recovers from his problems yesterday.