Corsica - Citroen Sport - Day One
Following their success last weekend on the Rally Catalunya, Sebastien Loeb
/Daniel Elena have emerged on top of this evening's leaderboard in Corsica where the 13th round of the 2008 World Rally Championship started this morning.
four-time World Champions produced a perfect run at the wheel of their Citroen C4 WRC to claim the fastest time on all six stages and pull 32.3 seconds clear of their closest rivals.
The opening leg took crews south of Ajaccio for two loops of three stages in the vicinity of the Valinco Gulf near Propriano, a region where the organisers have a wide choice of chiefly narrow, bumpy roads on abrasive, occasionally cut-up asphalt.
"This morning's loop went very well," related Loeb during the lunchtime break. "It took me a few kilometres to modify my driving style for this event and settle into the best rhythm which is a little different here in Corsica to what it was last weekend in Spain. After that, I was able to push to try to pull out a gap."
Sticking to the same sort of pace as the morning, Loeb and Elena profited from the second loop to add three more stage wins to their scorecard.
"It's been an excellent day. Our C4 ran like a dream and we didn't make any mistakes.
But what matters more than our fastest times, I think, is the fact that we succeeded in more than doubling our lead this afternoon," observed the current Drivers' championship leader at the end of the day.
"The gap is now up to slightly more than 32 seconds. That's not enough to start thinking about lifting, but it does make our job a little easier going into the second day, although we have no intention of dropping our guard," Loeb stated.
"I can't be one hundred per cent pleased with how today went," regretted team principal Olivier Quesnel after the first leg's action was over. "This morning, our two crews started strongly to show how competitive the C4 WRC is on sealed surfaces. After SS2, we were first and second, and Sebastien and Daniel went on to continue their domination for the rest of the day."
"Winning all the opening day's stages, which is a feat they also achieved in Finland, Germany and Spain, has given them a handy advantage at the top of tonight's order, but nothing is by any means set in concrete just yet," he said.
"My only regret is the fact that Dani (Sordo) and Marc (Marti) went off, but that's rallying," Quesnel remarked. "They were pushing hard and were caught out under braking. The team is doing all it can to repair their car to enable them to re-start tomorrow morning under the SupeRally ruling."
Understandably, Dani Sordo sounded just as disappointed as he described what happened: "I started cautiously and used SS1 to find my marks. On the next stage, I was able to profit from the full potential of my C4 and we managed to move into second place, although we did push very hard to achieve that."
"Then, about 800 metres after the start of SS3, there was a small bump in the braking zone for a lefthand turn at the end of a particularly fast, narrow, downhill section, and that was enough to cause my car to lift slightly. I braked as hard as I could, taking care not to lock the wheels, but the rear of my C4 swiped a bank which sent the front end into a rock. That in turn ripped off the left-side wheel and we were unable to continue," he explained.
"It's a huge shame. I had found a good pace, I felt completely at one with my car and we had just moved into second place," Sordo concluded.