Catalunya - Leg 1 - Review
With weather swinging from sunny to rainy, Rally Catalunya was no easy matter for the WRC contenders, especially in regards to their tyre choices – a task that became quite difficult with the changing conditions of the road surface.
the time being, the works Citroën drivers have played that guessing game well; talent took care of the rest. By accomplishing a great run on the day's last stage, Sebastien Loeb
took the lead of the rally ahead of teammate Dani Sordo. Third-placed Marcus Grönholm is already 50.6 seconds behind Loeb, his Championship rival.
Masterful LoebSebastien Loeb
was once again the author of a great race on the first leg of Rally Catalunya. Winner of two stages, second-placed on three and fourth-placed on one, the Citroën driver remained constant all day long.
With Dani Sordo leading the rally by the fourth stage, Loeb reacted strongly by winning the last run six seconds ahead of his teammate and over 20 on his closest adversaries. The Frenchman is 11.3 seconds ahead in the general rankings, his objectives of the day accomplished.
Dani Sordo also did very well today, temporarily holding the lead of a world championship event for the first time. At ease on asphalt, motivated by his home crowd, Sordo was on good pace. Only Loeb prevented him from holding on to the top spot, but he was nonetheless quite happy to occupy second place in the leader's wake.
Bad tyre choice for the Ford team drivers
In mixed conditions, alternating between dry and damp roads, tyre choices become a challenge. After taking the wrong decisions, the Ford drivers are paying the price: a 50.6-second time gap for Grönholm, 53.2 for Hirvonen.
The morning had started out differently however. Grönholm engaged the hostilities by taking the first stage, but after overcutting his tyres for a road that turned out to be dryer than expected, he lost ground to both Citroëns. The choice for the afternoon's runs would be fantastic for the penultimate stage but turned out to be a disaster on the last route of the day, where he lost 33.8 seconds to Loeb.
Mikko Hirvonen fared better by cutting his tyres less, but the Finn encountered difficulties finding pace and confidence. He presently stands fourth on the leaderboard, only 2.6 seconds behind his teammate.
One stage for Duval
Things started out wrong for François Duval this morning after he lost a half-minute by spinning out on the first stage. On the following run, clutch problems slowed him down. His passage through the service park would be more than beneficial.
The Kronos Racing engineers brought his Xsara into a fighting state and the Belgian would sign the fastest trek through the third stage, clawing his way back up to fifth place in the overall standings.
He remains however the sole bearer of the OMV Kronos Citroën colours after Manfred Stohl rolled down an embankment and retired – on the same stage Duval won.
Satisfying tally for Subaru
Petter Solberg is not even aiming for victory: he knows he cannot contest supremacy on tarmac for the time being since his Impreza does not yet have the means to do so. Solberg is satisfied nonetheless, for after going through a series of problems over previous events, today went rather well.
Spending most of his time somewhere midway on the top ten list, he is presently the best-placed Subaru driver as he stands in sixth position, 9.6 seconds away from François Duval.
Chris Atkinson was going for the attack this morning, but a go-through at an intersection suggested prudence. The Australian admitted at the end of the day that he may have been too prudent, in fact. No major errors were committed and he claimed eighth place.
Xevi Pons was disappointed since he had hoped to shine on his home soil. Held back by brake problems, the Spaniard would have trouble finding the right pace even after the brake issue was resolved. Ninth in the standings, he is over a minute behind the preceding driver, team mate Atkinson.
Two Stobart cars in the top ten
The Stobart drivers are not really tarmac specialists, so it does not come as a surprise that the objectives of Jari-Matti Latvala and Henning Solberg are simply to reach the end of the rally. The aim here is to prudently gain experience.
Latvala is seventh in rank, Solberg is tenth, and both are satisfied with their first day on the Costa Daurada.