Two Xsaras in the leading pack The Xsaras WRC driven by SÃ©bastien Loeb/Daniel Elena and Carlos Sainz/Marc Marti returned to Karlstad this evening in second and fourth places respectively, after a leg during which all the leading drivers ...
Two Xsaras in the leading pack
The Xsaras WRC driven by Sébastien Loeb/Daniel Elena and Carlos Sainz/Marc Marti returned to Karlstad this evening in second and fourth places respectively, after a leg during which all the leading drivers faced identical road conditions. This was quite a relief for Sébastien, who had to open the route, as he did last year, and who had vivid memories of the time he lost on that occasion when he acted as a "snow-plough".
There was no question of snow on this first day. The thaw, which had set in over the past few days, robbed the rally of its picture postcard scenery. Luckily, on the first pass through the stages, the drivers encountered either thick ice or mud covered with a thin film of ice. This meant consistent conditions, without the dramatic changes of grip that can so easily catch the competitors out. Only the long special stage, Granberget, which was run twice, deteriorated due to the first pass through the test, meaning that the ground showed through in a number of sections.
Always classified in the top four of each stage, and finishing the day with a fastest time, Sébastien Loeb was not displeased with his day : " I was slightly too slow through the first half of the first special stage, before finding the right pace. In the second stage, I went 'slightly' too quickly into a right-handed corner, and ended up spinning. Luckily, after going right round, the car was pointing in the right direction. I was ready to get going right away, and this incident only cost me a few seconds. I did not make any mistakes through the Granberget stage, during which we used an identical set of tyres. However, we did lose a bit of time, which I find hard to explain. Finally, we set the best time in the super special, which is good for the motivation. We will try to keep up the same pace tomorrow."
Starting in eighth position on the road, Carlos Sainz was worried that the conditions would have deteriorated. However, this proved not to be the case, to the great satisfaction of the Madrid - based driver, who set the fastest time in SS2. Having conceded more time that he had expected during SS3, just like Sébastien, Carlos decided to opt for the Michelin GE ' ice' tyres, with 'sharp' studs, which had enabled Markko Märtin to set the best time during the first pass through. Unfortunately, the ground had begun to show through the ice, which did not suit the studs, less resistant than the standard ones used by the other competitors. "I broke a lot of studs. The further I went into the stage, the less grip I had !" Carlos lost one place due to this misadventure. However, the Spaniard put his new spare wheel on at the front right to complete the Hagfors Super Special stage. and managed to set the second-fastest time, equal with Märtin.
This evening, there is some uncertainty about the rest of the race due to the weather ! Depending on the variations of the thermometer, either above or below the freezing point, it varies between snow and rain, falling on the ice. Two of tomorrow's five stages will be driven twice . place your bets !
Michelin, Magneti-Marelli, Kinetic, OZ, AIS and Citroën Financement are the sponsors of the Citroën-Total team in the World Rally Championship.