Argentina : Kronos Citroën WRT - Leg 1
At the end of a gruelling first leg, which comprised almost half the competitive distance of the rally, Sebastien Loeb
, Daniel Elena and their Kronos-run Citroen Xsara WRC returned to the Feriar Complex in Cordoba leading the event.
Sordo and Marc Marti were sixth overnight, having predictably climbed a steep learning curve. Xevi Pons and Carlos Del Barrio were forced into retirement halfway through the day following a small ‘off'. They will re-start tomorrow under the super rally regulations.
Seb and Daniel were third after the two runs through yesterday's packed spectator Superspecial in Cordoba Stadium. But they started today's action by dropping to seventh place, 23.3 seconds behind Petter Solberg who was leading at the time.
Seb explained : « In Ascochinga (SS3) I just got caught out by a right-hand hairpin, which we take in first gear. The car stopped sideways across the road, so I had to manoeuvre back and forth to get going again. Then the engine stalled, and to cut a long story short I lost 15 seconds. After that, I knew I had to push hard. »
By winning Capilla del Monte (SS4) and San Marcos (SS5), which were last run in 2003, Seb hauled his Citroen onto the provisional podium, 9.8 seconds behind the leader Marcus Grönholm and just 0.6 seconds behind Solberg. On the following stage Seb managed to split the two Scandinavians, then after La Falda (SS7) Seb reduced Grönholm's lead to just eight seconds.
Seb commented : « I really hoped to get by him on SS8, but on the same stage Marcus was forced to stop.
I couldn't back off though, as Petter was just a dozen seconds or so behind. »
The reigning World Champion added : « On the last stage of the day, I really thought for a moment that I was going to lose my lead. The first few kilometres were really sandy : there was no grip and I made a series of mistakes. I hit the side of the road about three times and I nearly spun twice. I really had to calm things down then. It's on stretches of road like that where you realise how much work the active differentials used to do… Tomorrow is going to be almost as long as today and the stages are going to be just as varied. We're going to have a lot of fun, although our plan is still to attack. Marcus is no longer in the running, but there's always Petter. »
Dani Sordo and Marc Marti had mixed fortunes. During the long loop of stages in the morning, their feeling with the car and their confidence was not at its highest. As the reigning Junior World Champion explained : « The car seemed to be oversteering a lot. » At service, the Kronos engineers made some set-up changes that improved things, and then two of the stages were run for the second time. Dani's gap to Sebastien Loeb
came down to about half a second per kilometre in the afternoon.
« I managed to set stage times that were much more like it, » pointed out Dani. « Tomorrow we face another long day, and it will again be just as hot inside the car. But half the stages have already been run today, so I hope to be able to maintain the same rhythm that we had this afternoon. »
‘Cabalango/Carlos Paz' (SS6) was an unlucky one for Xevi Pons and Carlos Del Barrio. The Spaniards slid wide on a corner and damaged the left-rear wheel. They tried to drive slowly to the end of the stage, but the impact had consequences for the transmission and fuel system – causing a small fire that was rapidly extinguished by the crew.
Xevi and Carlos will re-start tomorrow with a 25-minute penalty (five per stage missed) under the super rally regulations. Their aim will be to work hard, gain experience for future events, and to target some manufacturer points.
Press release Citroën Kronos WRT