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Loeb in command on the Rallye Deutschland

23 August 2002


Citroen driver Sebastien Loeb has taken command of the tenth round of the FIA World Rally Championship, the Rallye Deutschland, which started in earnest from Trier this morning.

The young Frenchman set fastest times on all but one of today's special stages to hold a half-minute lead over reigning world champion Richard Burns, with Loeb's team-mate Philippe Bugalski in third overnight.

Germany's first ever round of the world championship attracted huge crowds from all over central Europe, and the organisers had to delay some stages to keep fans under control. The day's seventh stage was cancelled when it became clear that spectator safety could not be guaranteed.

Sebastien Loeb's Citroen Xsara WRC has been reliable, but his team-mates have not been so fortunate. Philippe Bugalski's car has suffered from brake fade, while Jesus Puras retired his example with electrical problems this morning.

Loeb has been the fastest man on today's opening leg. The young Frenchman was third fastest on the first test but he then embarked on a run of scratch times through stages two to eight to grab the lead and build up an overnight advantage of nearly half a minute.

His team-mate Philippe Bugalski lost time with occasional brake problems but he has been regularly in the top six times and that consistency moved him into third overnight, albeit nearly 50 seconds behind the leader.

The third Xsara driver, late entry Jesus Puras, retired this morning with electrical problems.

''It's been going very well today,'' commented Loeb. ''Yes, we've been attacking quite hard but there's no option to do anything else on a world championship rally these days. I've got a good feeling with the car - it's behaving well and the times have obviously been good. But there's a long way still to go and tomorrow's stages are different from today.''

Team-mate Philippe Bugalski noted: ''Sebastien is driving very well, of course, but it's hard for me to have total confidence because of these little brake problems. You have to be able to commit to corners on stages like today, especially with all of the junctions, but that's been difficult for me. I hope things improve tomorrow and then we can attack more.''

At Peugeot meanwhile Marcus Grönholm lost time on this morning's third stage, when his 206 WRC lost hydraulic pressure. He had to switch both the gearshift and the throttle system to manual control but even then, he was left without differential pressure and it cost him around 40 seconds. He picked up a further 30-second penalty when his service team needed extra time to cure the problem and he was late leaving service.

Richard Burns has enjoyed a cleaner run, although he has complained of fading brakes and a softening middle pedal on some stages. Harri Rovanperä's 206, meanwhile, has been reliable.

Grönholm and Burns tied for the fastest time on today's opening stage and the Finn led on his own after SS2, but he dropped back after the following test when he suffered hydraulic problems that left him with no differential pressure. He incurred road penalties in service as his team worked to cure the problem, and dropped to tenth as a result. He recovered in the later stages to end the day in sixth. Burns, meanwhile, lost time with intermittent brake fade but he kept his car in the top three placings. He ended the day in second overall, around half a minute behind leader Loeb.

The third 206 WRC driver, Harri Rovanperä, holds 11th overnight as he continues to gain more experience of asphalt competition.

''It's disappointing to lose the time so early in the rally, really,'' said Gronholm. ''Already I would say it's impossible to catch Sebastien, but there are still two days left and maybe we can make up enough positions to aim for the podium.''

Richard Burns continued: ''The brake problem has been more annoying than anything because it just affects your confidence. That aside, it's been going okay for us today. The conditions have been quite tricky, because you still find five percent of corners where the road is still damp, and maybe 30 percent where it's quite dirty and slippery.''

Colin McRae's Ford Focus RS WRC02 was reliable until today's final stage, when it suffered power steering failure and lost its brakes. Both Carlos Sainz's and Markko Martin's cars suffered gear change glitches during this morning's opening batch of stages (Sainz lost no time because his problem occurred on a road section). Ford's engineers modified the mechanism at this morning's first service, and none of the crews reported any repetition of the problem thereafter. Martin then suffered a mousse insert break-up on today's closing stage.

McRae has kept his Focus in a points-scoring position throughout today's stages, although the Scot admits that he will need unpredictable weather or heavy showers to stand a chance of fighting with the top three crews. He holds fourth overnight.

Sainz, meanwhile, holds ninth after he lost time by sliding wide at one corner in SS5, and then getting a junction wrong in SS6 and turning the wrong way. He had to reverse before he could take the correct route, and he lost at least 10 seconds as a result. Markko Martin is 13th after he lost time this morning with gear selection problems.

''It's not been a perfect day because we're losing time to the Peugeots and Citroens but we're not too far behind, at least,'' commented McRae. ''I don't think there's anything we can do about it. Tomorrow's quite a different place but we'll have to see if that makes any difference. A bit of rain might level things out a bit and give us more of a chance but it's hard to tell.''

Carlos Sainz added: ''The problem at the junction was my mistake. It wasn't very well marked and I just tried to turn hard left when I should have gone nearly straight on. Suddenly the road was totally blocked in front of me! It's the sort of place where a small mistake can cost you a lot of time.''

Subaru's Petter Solberg suffered power steering failure on his Impreza WRC2002 on the fifth stage, and he was unable to fix the problem in time for the following test. In addition to grappling with steering in SS6, he also had to contend with a broken driveshaft. He has complained of differential problems for much of today's tests, too.

Mäkinen suffered a problem from virtually his first tug on the handbrake lever in SS1, because it came off in his hand. The lack of a handbrake forced the Finn to make three-point turns at many of the tighter hairpins and although he effected temporary repairs, the solution was far from ideal and he lost more time in SS2 and SS3. He also became suspicious of his gearbox when he started to jump out of gear at low speeds on road sections in the day's second group of stages.

Toshihiro Arai's Impreza was forced out of the event after SS4 with gearbox problems, while Achim Mortl did his example no good at all when he ripped off a wheel in the first stage.

Solberg has been Subaru's most consistent challenger, despite overshooting a hairpin in SS4 and suffering power steering problems and a broken driveshaft in SS5 and SS6. The young Norwegian has kept his Impreza in the points positions for much of the day but his late differential problems cost him stage time and 20 sec. penalty and he'll start tomorrow's stages in tenth.

Mäkinen lost time this morning when his handbrake lever broke, forcing him to make three-point turns at the numerous hairpins in the vineyard-based stages. The Finn dropped outside the top 10 as a result. Toshihiro Arai spun five times in the opening three stages today, and any hopes of a recovery were dashed by gearbox failure and retirement after SS4. The fourth Subaru driver, Achim Mortl, dropped right out of contention on today's first stage when he ripped a wheel off his Impreza.

Solberg said: ''It's been quite frustrating to have so many problems because we're clearly able to fight with the Fords on these stages and I've got quite a good feeling with the car. But tomorrow could be very different again.''

Over at Hyundai Freddy Loix's Accent was reliable for much of day one but on the last stage, it lapsed onto three cylinders. Armin Schwarz, meanwhile, reported a misfire through the rev range on this morning's stages. The problem was cured at the day's first proper service halt, but then the German lost his anti-lag system in the second batch of stages.

Both of Hyundai's drivers have been consistent top-10 performers though, with Loix delighting the team by posting third fastest time on one stage. His late misfire dropped him to eighth overnight, though, just over 10 seconds behind his team-mate, who occupies sixth.

''The misfire was really strange,'' noted Schwarz, ''it was through the revs and it came in when you were really asking the engine to pull from low down. You had to take your foot off the throttle before it would clear, so I'm sure it cost me some time, of course. But apart from that it's going quite well and the times of both our cars have been quite encouraging.''

Freddy Loix added: ''I really just want a full, clean day's action because we've shown today that we're competitive but we've missed out on a points placing overnight.''

Skoda's Toni Gardemeister hit several problems this morning. He complained of a lack of rear grip in his Octavia, and the car's anti-lag system also cut in on the faster sections and refused to work when it was really needed - in slower junctions. Kenneth Eriksson suffered brake fade this morning and then lost more time with a broken driveshaft in SS5. Matthias Kahle was forced to abandon his first works drive in an Octavia when his car suffered engine failure.

The factory Octavia WRCs of Eriksson and Gardemeister have both fought hard to stay in touch with the top 10 places, but both will start tomorrow's action outside of that leading group. Gardemeister is not satisfied with his car's handling in the narrow vineyard roads and he also lost time with anti-lag problems. He holds 12th overnight. Eriksson, meanwhile, lost a chunk of time with a broken driveshaft and dropped to the bottom of the top 20 as a result.

Gardemeister commented: ''I'm not quite 100 percent with the car yet. It does feel big in the tighter junctions but we've had a few problems that have stopped me getting used to the car. Hopefully Baumholder tomorrow will suit the Octavia better.''

Francois Delecour's Mitsubishi Lancer Evo WRC has been reliable. But Alister McRae was forced to retire his example just after SS6 when it suffered turbo failure. The engine cut out on the road section and refused to restart.

Mitsubishi's Lancer Evo WRC2 has struggled on its first full day of asphalt competition today. The cars of both Alister McRae and Delecour have stayed outside of the top 10 placings throughout, and McRae was forced to retire his Lancer after SS6 when it suffered turbo failure. The car's engine cut out on the road section and refused to restart. Delecour, meanwhile, holds 14th overnight.

Francois Delecour said: ''We're trying some new things with differentials and suspension, because it's still hard to keep the car in a straight line and that's a real problem on these narrow roads. I'm hoping that the Baumholder stages tomorrow will be more suited to the Lancer. We've clearly made an improvement, but there's a lot still to do.''

Of the other entries British driver Niall McShea leads the Junior World Rally Championship category in his Opel Corsa. The Ulsterman took the lead of the category after early leader Andrea Dallavilla had to stop and change a flat tyre in SS3, and he holds an overnight advantage of less than 10 seconds from local driver Sven Haaf's Citroen Saxo. The next Junior WRC contender, Francois Duval, is a further 15 seconds behind.


Rally Statistics - Leg one:

Starters: 86 crews (61 Group A and 25 Group N) started this morning.

Retirements: A. McRae (GB), Kahle (D), Puras (E), Arai (J), and 12 other drivers.

Today - Friday 23 August: Leg 1 started from Trier, Messepark, at 06h45 and covered 496.67km, including 148.12km on eight special stages.

Tomorrow - Saturday 24 August: Leg 2 starts from Trier, Messepark, at 07h30 and covers 586.28km, including 164.50km on eight special stages. The first car is expected to arrive in Trier, Messepark, at 21h44.

Weather forecast: Staying fine, but still a chance of showers.


Stage by stage summary - Leg one:


SS1 Dhrontal 1 (14.80kms):
1. Burns (GB) Peugeot 8m 27.9
1. Grönholm (FIN) Peugeot 8m 27.9
3. Loeb (F) Citroen 8m 32.5

SS2 Schones Moselland 1 (23.82kms):
1. Loeb (F) Citroen 14m 10.8
2. Grönholm (FIN) Peugeot 14m 11.0
3. Burns (GB) Peugeot 14m 12.1

Leaders after SS2:
1. Grönholm (FIN) Peugeot 22m 38.9
2. Burns (GB) Peugeot 22m 40.0
3. Loeb (F) Citroen 22m 43.3

SS3 Moselwein 1 (22.28kms):
1. Loeb (F) Citroen 13m 24.2
2. Bugalski (F) Citroen 13m 38.2
3. Burns (GB) Peugeot 13m 38.5

Leaders after SS3:
1. Loeb (F) Citroen 36m 07.5
2. Burns (GB) Peugeot 36m 18.5
3. Solberg (N) Subaru 36m 38.5

SS4 Dhrontal 2 (12.16kms):
1. Loeb (F) Citroen 8m 23.8
2. Burns (GB) Peugeot 8m 28.4
3. C. McRae (GB) Ford 8m 28.9

Leaders after SS4:
1. Loeb (F) Citroen 44m 31.3
2. Burns (GB) Peugeot 44m 47.5
3. Solberg (N) Subaru 45m 08.7

SS5 Schones Moselland 2 (23.82kms):
1. Loeb (F) Citroen 13m 53.8
2. Bugalski (F) Citroen 13m 55.8
3. Loix (B) Hyundai 13m 59.6

Leaders after SS5:
1. Loeb (F) Citroen 58m 25.1
2. Burns (GB) Peugeot 58m 50.8
3. Bugalski (F) Citroen 59m 06.5

SS6 Stein und Wein 1 (15.80kms):
1. Loeb (F) Citroen 8m 33.5
2. Burns (GB) Peugeot 8m 34.4
3. Grönholm (FIN) Peugeot 8m 36.2

Leaders after SS6:
1. Loeb (F) Citroen 1h 06m 58.6
2. Burns (GB) Peugeot 1h 07m 25.2
3. Bugalski (F) Citroen 1h 07m 42.9

SS7 Moselwein 2 (22.28kms):
Stage cancelled due to spectator congestion

SS8 Stein und Wein 2 (15.80kms):
1. Loeb (F) Citroen 8m 31.5
2. Burns (GB) Peugeot 8m 31.9
3. Grönholm (FIN) Peugeot 8m 33.4

Leaders after SS8:
1. Loeb (F) Citroen 1h 06m 58.6
2. Burns (GB) Peugeot +27.0
3. Bugalski (F) Citroen +49.0
4. C.McRae (GB) Ford +1m 10.4
5. Gronholm (FIN) Peugeot +1m 26.8
6. Schwarz (D) Hyundai +1m 29.6
7. Thiry (B) Peugeot +1m 34.2
8. Loix (B) Hyundai +1m 40.2
9. Sainz (E) Ford +1m 42.1
10. Solberg (N) Subaru +1m 42.3





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