Leg One News Championship leader Sebastien Loeb (Citroen) was fastest on three of the four stages, the Frenchman admitting that he was pushing hard to keep Gronholm at bay. Alex Bengue (Peugeot) was unhappy with his car's suspension this...
Leg One News
Championship leader Sebastien Loeb (Citroen) was fastest on three of the four stages, the Frenchman admitting that he was pushing hard to keep Gronholm at bay. Alex Bengue (Peugeot) was unhappy with his car's suspension this morning but set-up changes in service improved the handling this afternoon. Dani Sordo (Citroen) lost about 40 seconds on the opening stage with electrical problems. He stopped to try and reset the systems but was unable to solve the problems until service. He then climbed from 13th to end the day in fifth. Petter Solberg (Subaru) spun on the opening stage and dropped 45 seconds after flattening his car's exhaust. He then had gear selection problems on the next test and is 14th. Team-mate Chris Atkinson also spun and damaged his exhaust on stage three. When the cockpit filled with smoke, he had to stop to allow it to clear. Gear selection problems added to his troubles and he dropped more than seven minutes.
Kronos Total Citroen
The Citroen Xsara WRC of Sebastien Loeb/Daniel Elena has come out on top after the first round of a high-octane battle with the pairing of Marcus Gronholm/Timo Rautiainen. By winning three of the four special stages between Sainte Marie Sicche and Propriano today, the reigning World Champions have built up a small but valuable lead of 19.9 precious seconds. Following the example of their team leader, Kronos Racing's young Spaniards finish the day in fifth and sixth places, with Dani Sordo/Marc Marti just ahead of Xevi Pons/Carlos Del Barrio. This makes it three Xsaras in the top six.
Sebastien Loeb/Daniel Elena: "On the Catalunya Rally, as soon as I found a set-up that suited me, Marcus hit problems, " he said. "So I was very curious to see what would happen here. It's exactly as I expected. The battle is very close, with a Xsara that is on fighting form. Of course, I had to mount a proper attack. I had to brake late and not give an inch for corner after corner. It's certainly tight. But I had no real scares, and we have to try and keep going at this rhythm. "
Xavier Pons/Carlos Del Barrio: " I was slowed down by a big vibration from the front-right tyre in the second stage. During the afternoon's loop of stages, I thought I had found a good rhythm. I was forced to slow it down a bit towards the end, as I noticed that my brakes were going off. The pedal was getting lower and lower. We'll get all this fixed now for tomorrow. "
All in all, the OMV Peugeot Norway World Rally Team is quite satisfied with day one of the "Rallye de France - Tour de Corse". Ninth intermediate place makes hope to reach scoring ranks (top 8) already on Saturday despite grip problems for the OMV duo Stohl/Minor. Stohl has great plans for Saturday in any case. He wants to prove that he also is among the best rally drivers on tarmac.
Manfred Stohl/Ilka Minor: "I'm already feeling at home and I'm sure that we will pick up even more speed during the remainder of the rally. The Peugeot runs faultlessly. All that's missing is the final polish to tap the full potential."
Both BP-Ford World Rally Team pairings hold top four places after today's opening leg of the Rallye de France Tour de Corse. Marcus Gronholm and Timo Rautiainen won one of the four asphalt speed tests on their way to second in their Ford Focus RS World Rally Car, while team-mates Mikko Hirvonen and Jarmo Lehtinen are fourth in a similar car.
Marcus Gronholm/Timo Rautiainen: "I dropped time to Loeb at the end of the first stage again this afternoon and I just don't know why. Maybe it's the driver because I don't think there's anything wrong with the car. This afternoon was the first time I have used the hard compound tyres in competition and I didn't really get used to them. I wasn't happy with my driving today and now I have a difficult job tomorrow in trying to take back time."
Mikko Hirvonen/Jarmo Lehtinen: "Fourth is OK but I'm disappointed my times are not as close to Marcus and Seb as they were on the last rally in Spain," he said. "My pace notes are precise but I have no confidence in them and I don't know why. I wasn't happy with my driving. I made a few small changes to the differentials in service and the feeling was better this afternoon but I also stalled again at the start of the last stage. If I can sort myself out then I know I can fight for a podium."
Stobart VK M-Sport Ford
Stobart VK M-Sport Ford Rally Team driver Matthew Wilson found the going difficult in his first day in Rallye de France - Tour de Corse as the 19 year-old came to terms with the twists and turns of the challenging Corsican tarmac. Wilson and co-driver Michael Orr drove solidly and without major incident through the day, played out under glorious sunshine in the mountains stretching up from the seaside capital of Corsica, Ajaccio.
Matthew Wilson/Michael Orr: "It's definitely one of the hardest rallies I've done. You're constantly working and trying to push yourself, really quite hard. We lost about 15 seconds when we spun on a really narrow section near the end of stage three. There was a lot of gravel and we came out of a left-hander and got on the power just a little too early which spun the back end round. It clouted the rear on the bank and as we reversed back on to the stage we hit the rear again. The stages are so long here, if you're just a second a kilometre slower than the fastest driver that's 30 seconds. It's easy to get disheartened with that. Hopefully we can just learn from it, we've changed a couple of things on the pace notes and things like that, just making improvements for next year which is the main thing."
Jari-Matti Latvala/Miikka Anttila: "In the first stage I wasn't so confident, I wasn't driving well enough and I was braking too early but in the second stage I found the confidence and it started to go better. The day has been very good, no problems. My driving has been quite good, I had a safe margin as I haven't been pushing 100% so I'm happy to see the results. There were no big moments on the stages, just a few times when we went a bit wide on the gravel. Tomorrow we will go at the same speed but maybe we will go a little bit faster."
Incident and disappointment marked the first Leg of the Tour de Corse for the Subaru World Rally Team. Petter Solberg had a difficult start to the rally when exhaust damage sustained in a spin on the first stage dropped him more than three minutes behind the leaders. Petter finished the day 14th overall. Chris Atkinson continued to gain more valuable asphalt experience but suffered a set-back on the penultimate stage when the exhaust system on his car was damaged in almost identical circumstances to Solberg's. Stephane Sarrazin ran reliably and showed improvement throughout the Leg. He ended the day in tenth place.
Petter Solberg/Phil Mills: "Well, not the best. We've had better days of course, and with all the problems we've had it's been very difficult. We changed the gearbox earlier and the replacement is a slightly different specification. The car wasn't as easy to drive in the afternoon and we had to try some different settings to compensate, but that's how it is. Tomorrow's another day and we'll do all we can to improve on our position."
Stephane Sarrazin/Stephane Prevot: "It was a bit difficult; we are not where we were expecting to be. I'm doing all I can but we're not getting the results we want. In terms of what's possible for this rally, well, I hope to get into the top six; we'll just have to see. You can guarantee that I'll be pushing as hard as possible tomorrow."
Chris Atkinson/Glen MacNeall: "We had a good start to the day but a small mistake at a hairpin corner on SS3 just crimped the exhaust pipe and we had some gearbox problems after that. So not really the best day, it's disappointing but not the end of the world. Tomorrow we'll go out there and learn as much as we can in these conditions and hopefully keep improving."
Red Bull-Skoda Team
The Red Bull Skoda drivers Andreas Aigner and Harri Rovanpera can be satisfied with their start to the Corsica Rally by all means. That's the opinion of team representatives Armin Schwarz and Raimund Baumschlager as well: "Although the times we posted cannot keep up with the current positions we are seeing the team's clear improvements to the previous tarmac rally in Spain. The time gaps are not that huge anymore, especially for Aigner; the young man from Styria is ahead of his teammate Rovanpera and is also able to hold the comparable Englishman Matthew Wilson at bay by now."
Harri Rovanpera/Risto Pietelainen: "Of course I need to acclimate myself properly again. The Skoda Fabia is a good car, we had no troubles at all. If we continue like that we'll make up some positions for sure."
Andreas Aigner/Timo Gottschalk: "First off, I'd like to say that I'm quite happy with my day's work. With the exception of a small gaffe on SS1 I have driven flawlessly and was also able to improve on my times from Spain. I think it comes down to teething problems that I'm ahead of Harri. I'm really happy that I was able to beat Wilson on each and every stage and that I'm now already 44 seconds ahead of the Englishman."