Citroen whips up a desert storm!
The main contenders in the World Rally Championship played a waiting game and kept their cards close to their chest on the first day of Rally Jordan. Half a minute behind the leader, five crews are covered by a handful of seconds. Among them,
the Citroen Total World Rally Team crews are in the running for victory. Sebastien Loeb
and Daniel Elena are in third place while Dani Sordo and Marc Marti are lying sixth.
Rally Jordan has been unusual from several points of view. It has begun on a Thursday and the first of the three stages is the shortest in terms of timed kilometres. The event started in the late morning from Jerash in the majestic backdrop of the Roman Forum built over two thousand years ago.Sebastien Loeb
and Daniel Elena, the world championship leaders, had a tricky morning in front of them. They were first out on the road and had to sweep it for their rivals. In the first stage, they knew exactly what they were up against as they lost 4/10s per kilometre to the quickest. Seb pushed as hard as he could and finished the first loop of four stages over 20s behind the leaders. "The stages are very slippery but I think that the drivers who started just behind me are also doing a lot of sweeping," was how the Citroen driver analysed the situation when he got back to the service park. "I'm happy with my driving and the handling of the C4 WRC. We're going to keep on pushing this afternoon as our position of being first on the road leaves us no alternative."
Dani Sordo and Marc Marti set off in seventh spot and benefitted from slightly easier conditions. The Spanish crew led the rally briefly at the end of SS3 (Mahes 1). "It's true that the lines are swept, but we have to avoid the big stones dug up by the leading cars. But I'm in no position to take risks," commented the Spanish driver. "Apart from SS3 I feel I haven't driven really well on the first loop. I was a bit hindered by my differential setting: we're going to correct that in the service park."
The second loop of the day consisted of three stages, and was marked by various strategies aimed at obtaining the best starting position for tomorrow. Calculating was the last thing on Loeb's mind. He pushed till the very end and set his first fastest time of the day in the final stage. This put him in third place overall. "It's always a bit frustrating opening the road, as it's difficult to see why you're losing time. How much is down to the driver and how much to the sweeping? Tomorrow, the positions will be reversed with Jari-Matti Latvala, and we'll see how the race evolves. I'm fairly happy with third place overall."
Dani Sordo was third at the end of SS6 and he finished the loop in sixth position after lifting off when the finish was in sight. "Our place helped us to make a tactical choice. We're playing a waiting game in view of the third day of the rally in which sweeping will play a crucially important role. We've taken a gamble as we're now forty-five seconds behind the leader. For sure, the race is going to get more and more interesting!"