Fire and ice ! Despite temperatures that were well below freezing, the sun shone on a battle between Marcus GrÃ¶nholm and SÃ©bastien Loeb that was as hot as ever, giving the thousands of fans who flocked to the forests something to...
Fire and ice !
Despite temperatures that were well below freezing, the sun shone on a battle between Marcus Grönholm and Sébastien Loeb that was as hot as ever, giving the thousands of fans who flocked to the forests something to remember.
The warring duo shared the spoils on the stages today. By winning the first five tests, Marcus took his lead to 28.1s. However, Sébastien quickly replied by setting fastest times on Vargåsen and the Hagfors Sprint stage, bringing the gap back down to 25.1s overnight.
"We have been pushing hard all day " reported Seb. "When he feels at one with his car Marcus is a formidable adversary, and that seems to be the case here. On the whole, I reckon he was slightly quicker than us throughout the day. Furthermore I think I made two mistakes with tyre choice. I did not have the long studs when I needed them in the first loop of stages, and then I put them on for the second loop of stages when just the standard studs would have been better. Having said that, it is far from all over. I'm going to be pushing my hardest from the start of tomorrow, in order to pile on the pressure. "
Xevi Pons and Carlos Del Barrio enjoyed a trouble-free day without the slightest mistake or problem. "I was concentrating hard on not making any mistakes, " said the young Catalan driver. " I found a rhythm that I felt comfortable with. My progress is not as quick as I might have hoped. But it's very real, both in terms of the times I am setting and also for my confidence. I am keeping a firm eye on the manufacturers' championship points I could score. I am currently on three, and I am going to do everything I can to protect them... "
Dani Sordo was not quite as pleased as he was yesterday, for a simple reason. "I made a small mistake which put me in a snow bank on the Sundsjön stage, " he explained. " I was stuck there for seven minutes. It really is a very difficult rally, because there are several very experienced Scandinavian competitors here and also because of the tricky terrain. Sometimes you are going at more than 180kph on narrow icy roads, a corner comes up, and then you have to turn the steering wheel just the right amount at just the right moment. Turn it too late and you are guaranteed an accident. It's not at all easy, but it's still a fantastic experience... "
"As far as the battle for the lead is concerned, everything is still possible, " commented Marc Van Dalen, Kronos Total Citroen's team principal. " There are six stages yet to run, totalling nearly 100 competitive kilometres. Seb and Daniel still have room for manoeuvre. Xevi is learning patiently, and he has managed to avoid all the pitfalls that have caught out many other competitors. He is driving exactly the sort of rally we expected of him. Dani has paid the inevitable price of inexperience of the conditions, but luckily he was able to get going again. This means that he can continue to climb his Swedish learning curve...."