As in the last three rallies, Sebastien Loeb
and Daniel Elena have got off to a flying start in Turkey. The Xsara WRC crew was fastest over seven of today's eight stages and have carved out a healthy lead this evening. Back at the wheel of the second CitroŽn, Carlos Sainz and Marc
Marti are ideally positioned to provide rearguard cover to their team-mates in their bid to secure as many Manufacturers' championship points as possible this weekend.
"There are still some 200 km of stages to come, so I have no intention of crying victory," says Guy Frťquelin who is nevertheless clearly delighted. "What I can say however is that our two crews both did an excellent job. Sťbastien was his usual attacking self and also as intelligent as usual when it comes to coping with difficult situations, which is exactly what he did today in SS4. And I'm in admiration of what Carlos has done! It only took him a stage to find his marks. But why should that surprise us! We know he's a true competitor. I would simply like to say that I'm delighted to see him so happy."
Day 1's menu featured three groups of stages, each of which had its own particular flavour. In the first loop (SS2/3), Sťbastien demonstrated that running first on the road wasn't such a big handicap after the recent heavy rain that has fallen here. It was a different picture in the first stage of the second loop (SS4) when Seb was forced to cut a line through the 12 km of mud. "The surface was like a thick clay which clogged up the tyre treads, turning them into slicks. The car would go into a slide without warning, as if we were aquaplaning, or like when you try to slow down a tobogganÖ I concentrated on not making any mistakes."
This reasoned approach allowed ĎGigi' Galli, who followed 17s behind in 2nd position after SS3, to momentarily topple Seb from first placeÖ However, by the end of the very next test (Myra, SS5), the defending Champion was clear in front again. In the third group of stages, rain and fog complicated matters but didn't prevent Seb from posting fastest times over SS7, 8 and 9.
"It couldn't have gone better," was Sťbastien's analysis at this evening's service park. "The car was perfectly balanced and I was able to do what I wanted with it. If I wanted to slide, it responded progressively. And when I wanted to keep it smooth, it wasn't a problem. The most difficult thing today has been tyre choice. This was the fruit of real teamwork and I think we can all be pleased tonight with the choices we made!"
Running in thirteenth position on the road, Carlos Sainz lost no time finding his reflexes. At the end of SS1, which he finished with his two front tyres and a rear tyre running on the ATS run-flat mousse, the Spaniard figured in 10th place, but succeeded in climbing to 5th place this evening.
"It wasn't such an easy day for me. My road position meant I came across lots of big stones on the stages. My speed came back bit by bit as I got used to the Michelin tyres which are new this season; the grip they give is excellent. The car's steering precision is also a little different to what I was accustomed to. I have therefore been looking to adjust the set-up differently to Seb with a view to making the car like I want it, which is to say very precise. Concerning tyre choice, because of the 24-minute gap between Seb and me on the road, I thought I would have more rain in the final loop and I possibly re-cut my tyres a little too much. That said, I am very pleased this evening because I think I am well placed to help CitroŽn."
Press release CitroŽn Sport