Argentina : Kronos Citroen WRT - FinishSebastien Loeb
and Daniel Elena leave Cordoba with 10 championship points as reward for their second consecutive victory on the Rally Argentina.
This success, their second gravel win of the year after Mexico, is also the fourth
of the year for the Franco-Monegasque pairing – who now take their total of career victories up to 24. Sebastien currently has an equal number of wins to Tommi Mäkinen, and is now headed only by Colin McRae (on 25 wins) and Carlos Sainz (on 26). Daniel Elena equals the record number of wins for a co-driver, held by Luis Moya. « It's fantastic ! » said Daniel. « But the party only really starts if I manage to beat him. »
This morning the leading Xsara started with a 43 second advantage as it prepared to « moonwalk » according to Daniel Elena – referring to the lunar landscape that characterised this morning's classic stages. Having judged his pace through Mina Clavero and El Condor perfectly, Seb maintained a 33-second lead heading into the final two runs around the spectator Superspecial in Cordoba Stadium. The two stages consisted of four laps, which for Seb were more like laps of honour. Cheering him on was an enthusiastic Argentine crowd that has very much adopted the reigning World Champions as their own.
« Everything about this rally is breathtaking, » commented Seb.
« The scenery, the high-speed water splashes and above all the fantastic welcome we get from the Argentine fans, who give us the best reception in the world. My Citroen was as reliable, fast and consistent as usual. That was just as well, because this rally was particularly difficult this year – mostly down to the weather. We had a good fight with Marcus [Grönholm] on the first day and that continued with Petter [Solberg] yesterday. For all those reasons, winning here is a special pleasure for me. As well as that, myself and Daniel extend our lead in the drivers championship while Kronos does the same in the constructors standings. As I still think we'll have a tight battle on our hands this year, that's no bad thing. »
Dani Sordo and Marc Marti aimed to defend their sixth place today, which was under attack from Chris Atkinson – just 18.7 seconds behind. Preparing for battle, Dani asked for a set-up change to improve traction. But after the classic El Condor stage, the reigning Junior World Rally Champion was far from happy. « I think we went the wrong way on the set-up, » he said. « My car was oversteering a lot. »
Atkinson was just 1.1 seconds behind the Xsara before the final two runs through the Superspecial. But a couple of flying laps from the Spaniard, with the cheering crowd right behind him, extended the gap to 3.6 seconds. « For my second gravel rally in a WRC car, we're more or less where I thought we would be, » said Dani. « I didn't make any mistakes. My learning curve continues and it's really good fun, although at times I wish it would come quicker. Here, I've learnt that I've still got a lot to learn. I need to be patient. »
Xevi Pons's rally also did not go as well as he had hoped, as the Spaniard was obliged to continue under the super rally regulations after going off on Friday. Nonetheless the 2006 Rally Argentina will always hold a special place in his heart, as Xevi set his first fastest stage time on the World Rally Championship in Ascochinga/La Cumbre (SS13). « One of my objectives is to gain confidence, » he said. « There's nothing better than setting fastest times to help that along. Seb has proved that the Xsara has nothing to fear from any of its rivals. With some experience and hard work, I need to make more and more use of the car's potential. My goal is to help Kronos defend its position at the head of the manufacturers' championship. »
Press release Citroën Kronos WRT