Sebastien Loeb shows who's boss! The first leg of Rally Great Britain was run in conditions typical of the great RAC Rallies of the past. Sebastien Loeb and Daniel Elena ended the first leg on top after a day-long battle with three other crews.
Sebastien Loeb shows who's boss!
The first leg of Rally Great Britain was run in conditions typical of the great RAC Rallies of the past. Sebastien Loeb and Daniel Elena ended the first leg on top after a day-long battle with three other crews. The seven-time world championship winning pair* arrived back at the parc ferme in Cardiff in the lead. Sebastien Ogier and Daniel Elena in the second C4 WRC of the Citroen Total World Rally Team are currently lying third, 3.6s behind their team-mates.
After a super special on Thursday evening on the quays in Cardiff won by Loeb, Rally Great Britain began today. After a quick trip to the service park well before dawn the crews covered a liaison stage of over 160 kms to reach the start of the first stage at Hafren.
There was no sparring and a battle calculated in tenths of a second began between four drivers: Sebastien Loeb, Sebastien Ogier, Petter Solberg and Jari-Matti Latvala. The latter hit the front first but Loeb fought back and took the lead after Sweet Lamb (SS3). Latvala fought back in Myherin. The Finn won the first round and arrived at the remote service halt in Builth Wells with a tiny 1.4s lead over Loeb.
"It would be risky to go flat out as the grip keeps changing," said Loeb before the service halt. "You have to be able to feel the changes in grip to adapt your braking distances. I was obliged to drive in defensive mode after a few scares in the long stages. For the moment, it's working okay. The gaps are tiny but we're under no pressure where the result's concerned."
"We took a long time to build up our confidence on this very special surface. Finally, there wasn't a lot of mud and the ground seemed to be hard and compact. But it's very slippery in some places," added Ogier. "We have to drive an intelligent race to keep our second place in the world championship. As expected, the leaders are covered by a few seconds, and we're going to try and stay with the front- runners."
It started to rain again in the early afternoon which didn't change much during the second run through the three stages. Ogier set his first fastest time in SS5 while Loeb was the quickest in the last two stages.
The driver of the N.1 C4 WRC Citroen regained the lead at the end of SS7, in which Latvala suffered a puncture. "The rain caused some aquaplaning in SS5 and I think I dried the road for my pursuers. In the next two stages I felt a lot more at ease. We had a great scrap with the other three today. There's still nothing in it as Sebastien Ogier and Petter Solberg are only four seconds behind," summed up Loeb.
Ogier in third place also reckoned that it had been a positive first day: "I'm pleased to have survived this first leg. I pushed a bit harder this afternoon as I found the grip was more consistent despite the rain. I'm in an ideal position for the rest of the event and we're going to try and continue in the same vein tomorrow."
* Subject to the official publication of the results by the FIA.