Mexico : Kronos Citroen WRT - Leg 1
After a thrilling second half to leg one, Sebastien Loeb
, Daniel Elena and their faithful Citroen regained the majority of the time that they lost in the morning because of road position. The reigning World Champions end leg one in third
overall, 9.5 seconds behind the leader Petter Solberg. Up-andcoming Spaniard Dani Sordo, co-driven by the experienced Marc Marti, is a delighted fifth place. Xevi Pons and Carlos Del Barrio were forced to stop on SS2 with an engine problem.
Rally Mexico started off full of promise, being the first event run on gravel this year – the most common surface of the World Championship. But the real form of the competitors was masked by the well-known problem of « roadsweeping ». As there had been no rain in the area around Leon for five months, the day's stages were covered by a layer of loose gravel. This meant that the first cars on the road had a difficult opening loop of stages, cleaning the road for the cars following behind. Marcus Grönholm and Sebastien Loeb
, the first two crews on the road, were forced to drive defensively over the opening three stages conceding 29.4 and 33.1 seconds respectively to Petter Solberg, who had started ninth on the road.
The second loop of stages was identical to that run in the morning, with two notable differences: the road surface was clean of loose gravel and ambient temperatures were on the rise. Having requested some set-up changes on his Xsara, Seb bolted on hard tyres and attempted to make up the lost time. The first stage of the second loop, « Ibarilla », showed that under equal conditions the gaps were small. By winning the next two stages, « Guanajuato » and « Cubilete », the reigning World Champion managed to claw back much of the lost time, and he ended the day fewer than 10 seconds behind the leader after the final spectator superspecial.
«It was very much a day of two halves » concluded Seb. « Halfway through the leg, it was very difficult for us to quantify how much of the time we lost was down to sweeping the road clean. Afterwards, we were able to read the situation much more clearly. I was particularly pleased with our set-up changes in between the two loops of stages, and the high level of performance from our BFGoodrich tyres on hot and clean stages. Tomorrow, our goal is to continue climbing up the order. »
For Xevi Pons, the rally came to a premature end. After a promising opening stage, the Spaniard decided to switch off the engine 11 kilometres into SS2 after noticing a drop in power from the engine accompanied by an unfamiliar noise. A detailed examination at the service area sadly confirmed his retirement with a broken engine, caused by an ignition problem.
Kronos Racing's other Spanish driver had a quieter day. Dani Sordo started off at a rapid pace, but had the good sense to moderate his rhythm after a spin on SS2. The reigning Junior World Rally Champion said: «When you make your debut in a WRC car on a rally that you do not know, it's always a relief to see the second run through stages! I'm feeling more confident and I'm really enjoying myself. »
Press release Citroen Kronos WRT