Day 2: sierra showdown for Loeb/Elena and the Citroen C4 Sebastien Loeb
, Daniel Elena and their Citroen C4 WRC completed Day 2 of the 2008 Rally Mexico on top of the provisional leaderboard.
With a total of 157.32 kilometres of competitive action to cover, the
second leg was the longest of the weekend and featured two loops of three stages all more than 20km in length before concluding with two visits to the super-special in Leon this evening.
The arid sierra, twisty dirt roads and cacti provided a fitting backdrop for this modern-day western which saw Sebastien Loeb
and Daniel Elena star as steady-handed pistoleros. Their mission today was to make up the 9.6-second gap that separated them from the overnight leaders and the Citroen crew profited from the form of their C4 WRC to take control by mid- morning.
"The combination of our running order and the changes we made to the set-up of our car last night enabled us to push hard from the outset today," confirmed Citroen's multiple World Champion. After clawing back a full 9.5s on SS9, Seb and Daniel were again quick off the draw on the following test to gain the lead before completing the morning's loop with a cushion of 5.8s.
They were perfectly aware, however, that such a slim gap hardly put them at a safe distance from their rivals and the Citroen duo took care not to ease up in the slightest during the afternoon. "I felt much more comfortable with my car than I did yesterday, so we did all we could to further clear," explained Sebastien. "It was important to build up as big a gap as possible because we will be the ones sweeping the stages on Sunday and the bigger our cushion the less difficult that promises to be. Our lead stands at just over a minute but I am still very much on my guard; victory is by no means in the bag yet."
The treacherous stages of the 2008 championship's first loose surface fixture caught out Dani Sordo and Marc Marti on Friday, but they were allowed to re-start this morning thanks to the SupeRally ruling. The Spanish pair put in a splendid drive and joined their team-mates at the top of the timesheets on a number of occasions. "I'm delighted with the way our day went, which only serves to make our misfortunes of yesterday all the more frustrating," said Dani. "We've found a set-up I like and I had an excellent feeling with my C4. There is one more leg to come and we're still in with a chance to pick up a Manufacturers' point for Citroen."
"It would be difficult not to be pleased with the way today went," added Olivier Quesnel. "Just as we had hoped yesterday, Seb and Daniel were able to challenge for the lead and they profited from the work done on their car last night by Citroen Sport to win their duel and pull out a useful gap. They haven't won this rally yet, though, and tomorrow's leg could well spring a surprise or two. The run of Dani and Marc today was an encouraging pointer for the rest of the year. They matched the speed of their team-mates on several occasions and, had they not been eliminated on Friday when a component broke after an impact on SS1, they would be battling for a podium finish now. But there are plenty more rallies to come for that."