Leg 2: Contrasting fortunes for the CitroÃ«n C4 WRC pair With five of the 2007 Swedish Rally's twenty scheduled stages remaining, the CitroÃ«n C4 WRC of SÃ©bastien Loeb and Daniel Elena are currently in 2nd place. Their CitroÃ«n ...
Leg 2: Contrasting fortunes for the Citroën C4 WRC pair
With five of the 2007 Swedish Rally's twenty scheduled stages remaining, the Citroën C4 WRC of Sébastien Loeb and Daniel Elena are currently in 2nd place. Their Citroën Sport team-mates Dani Sordo and Marc Martí reached this evening's service park in Hagfors in 16th position.
Today's programme featured a menu of more than 140km of competitive action, making it the longest leg of the rally. Three of the seven stages were repeats of yesterday's tests, while the other four were contested for the first time this weekend.
Sébastien started the day in 2nd place. Sitting a mere handful of seconds behind the provisional leader, he had been reassured by the potential of his Citroën C4 WRC on Day 1 and had every intention of mounting a concerted challenge for top spot. Indeed, the morning saw him hit the ground running as he posted the fastest time on SS9 (Lesjöfors) before dropping just six-tenths of a second to his rival on the following test, Liijendal (SS10). The anticipated scrap was well and truly on! Dani Sordo was also in fighting form, although in the Spaniard's case his principal 'opponent' was the Swedish Rally's highly specific terrain with which the Citroën Sport youngster was coming to grips at his own pace.
After Seb's flying start, however, the rest of the day was less successful for the reigning World Champion. He had been perfectly satisfied with his choice of 'long studs' until that point and, for the day's second group of stages, he preferred to stay with the same option, unlike the rally leader. That meant they two rivals were on different tyres for Torntop 2 and Vargäsen 2. The conditions encountered in these two tests marked a shift in the trend seen until then, however, and the gap separating Sébastien from the lead increased from 10.5 to 27.6 seconds, putting a completely different complexion on the situation...
"The day started really well," explained Sébastien at the lunchtime service halt in Hagfors. "But then it got complicated. As soon as I heard the first split times during SS11, I realised we were in trouble. The ice gave plenty of grip but my long studs meant I was moving about too much and I didn't have the precision I needed. I tried to concentrate during the following stage but all I could do again was try not lose too much time." Aware that it wouldn't be easy to make up such a big gap after that, Seb consequently concentrated on defending 2nd place over the day's final stages.
Before being slowed by hydraulic trouble during the day's last two stages, Dani Sordo had every reason to be pleased with his day, although the Swedish Rally for the moment at least is far from being his favourite event. "It's true, I'm not such a big fan of all this snow," he admitted frankly. "This is only my second time here. Last year I found it difficult and I wasn't a very happy person. This time, it's still tough but I've got a smile on may face! I feel I'm improving but I still learnt so much today. My notes are good but I need more confidence. It really isn't easy to take onboard the high speeds you can get reach on the ice!"
Despite the team's contrasting fortunes, Guy Fréquelin was pleased with the day on two accounts; one of the two Citroën C4 WRCs is on tonight's podium and the younger of his two drivers is continuing to make good progress: "The first loop went very well for us and showed that the C4 WRC is capable of challenging for victory. The problem was that we then opted for studs that were a little too long for the second loop and that choice didn't pay off. Sébastien lost ground and it was impossible to make it back up. Dani Sordo was going well and increasing his understanding of the event when he was slowed by a hydraulic failure at the end of the day."