Sandell closes in on the lead at the Rallye de France Swedish driver Patrik Sandell, backed by Red Bull, is challenging for the Super 2000 class lead after the opening day of the all-new Rallye de France, run for the first time in ...
Sandell closes in on the lead at the Rallye de France
Swedish driver Patrik Sandell, backed by Red Bull, is challenging for the Super 2000 class lead after the opening day of the all-new Rallye de France, run for the first time in Alsace.
Sandell, a former Junior World Rally Champion, started the all-asphalt rally from fourth in the Super 2000 World Rally Championship standings, having won the last round in Germany.
The Skoda Fabia S2000 driver was on the pace from the start, setting two fastest stage times on the opening day to move into a strong runner-up spot in the Super 2000 category, just 4.6 seconds behind the leader.
He is now confident that he will be able to challenge for another win throughout the two remaining days of the Rally de France, based in Strasbourg.
The brand new route meant that nobody started the rally with an advantage in terms of experience, but all the crews had to deal with slippery roads caused by overnight rain, which left the surfaces damp and treacherous.
The opening day of the rally took the crews through vineyard roads that were similar to those seen on the Rallye Deutschland in August, but the surface was pure asphalt rather than concrete. With stages that consisted of short straights and tight corners, as well as some faster and more flowing sections, the drivers had to ensure that their pace notes were completely accurate.
Sandell experienced no mechanical problems whatsoever on his Skoda, which is run by the experienced Baumschlager Rally Racing Team from Austria. The 28-year-old Swede commented: "Although it's a big challenge I'm really enjoying this new rally and for sure the experience we had from Germany helps. We made a bit of a slow start but soon found the right pace. The only worry we had was when we lost the brakes five kilometres from the finish of SS4, but it was not a major setback. We've really enjoyed fighting for the lead and actually I think there is a bit more left to come from us over the remaining two days."
Tomorrow Sandell and his co-driver Emil Axelsson will face eight more tricky asphalt stages, before Sunday's final day brings the rally to a close with four stages close to Sebastien Loeb's hometown of Haguenau.
Team principal Raimund Baumschlager commented: "Patrik has had a very good day and it's great to see him in the thick of the fight for the lead. In the morning we maybe went a little too soft with the set-up, as we wanted to be careful in the tricky conditions, but I don't think it made much difference. We're going to make a few small adjustments to the car overnight, so I'm expecting him to be right up there again tomorrow. Patrik has had a great drive today and he deserves this position."
-source: red bull