Loeb heads WRC pack in Turkey
25 June 2004
Citroen's Sebastien Loeb has the advantage in the Rally of Turkey following leg one today [Friday], the Frenchman setting two fastest stage times to pull out a 7.5 second lead over second-placed Marcus Gronholm.
Damper roads undoubtedly aided the championship leader as the road sweeping effect was less marked, enabling him to capitalise on the conditions, which were unusually wet.
"To be leading tonight is far better than what I expected," he commented at the end of the day. "I am in a good position for tomorrow, but I'm sure it will tough as Marcus Gronholm is very close. I will have to push."
Gronholm has promised he will 'attack' tomorrow...
"We're on the provisional podium and with a chance to fight for the lead, which is the most important thing," he added. "In the morning I did not feel too confident, but during the afternoon I had quite a good feeling with the car and I was able to push a bit. Tomorrow I have to attack, but it's also vital not to make any mistakes."
Petter Solberg meanwhile holds third, despite losing time with a spin early this morning and suffering a crushed air intake pipe sustained in the infamous stage four water crossing.
"It's been a difficult day let me tell you," noted the Subaru number one. "I tried to do my best but the water splash thing wasn't good and we lost a lot of time there. The conditions were very unusual today, and we've struggled to get the tyre choices and the cuts just right but hopefully, looking at the forecast, tomorrow will be a different story. Carlos is fairly close behind, but when I start tomorrow I'll be looking forward, not in the mirror. I don't think that on this rally Sebastien is too far ahead, we've seen today that anything can happen so let's wait and see."
Carlos Sainz is fourth with Francois Duval fifth in the lead Ford. The Belgian lost time this morning with a poor tyre choice and then the Focus dropped onto three cylinders this afternoon, again after the same water splash.
"It was a pity about our tyres this morning but apart from that it's been a good day," reckoned Duval. "Sainz and Solberg are not too far ahead so we will see what happens. The dust was bad on the final stage tonight and three times I nearly had to stop. I've tried hard to regain some of the seconds we lost this morning and to lose them again like that is annoying."
Harri Rovanpera, the stage four victor, lies sixth while Mikko Hirvonen is more than a minute adrift after losing time when he punctured the radiator on a rock.
"It was a day which started off badly but got better," said Harri. "I thought my luck had gone when I had the problem with the differential at the very start of the rally, but in the afternoon I had no problems at all and I was able to set some quick times. Now I'm hoping for a trouble-free day tomorrow which will give us the chance to make up more places."
Janne Tuohino is eighth, and currently the lead 'privateer', with Henning Solberg and Serkan Yazici completing the top ten.
Markko Martin endured a miserable day; the Estonian was also on the wrong tyres early this morning, he too suffered in the water crossing when the force of hitting it dislodged the bonnet and blocked the intercooler, and then two crank shaft sensors failed later this afternoon, possibly a legacy of earlier problems. As a consequence, the Estonian has dropped way down the leaderboard.
"It's remarkable because in the history of the Focus we have never had a crankshaft sensor fail and here we have two," noted Ford team boss, Malcolm Wilson. "The positioning of the sensors means it is hard for them to be damaged and my feeling is that it might be a legacy of Markko's problems in the watersplash earlier today."
Mitsubishi have also had a tough day, Gilles Panizzi retired with electrical problems in stage four and team-mate Gigi Galli was another victim of the watersplash. He dropped more than 10 minutes after damaging the radiator fan and stopping to make repairs.
In the Junior WRC, Mirco Baldacci leads a Suzuki one-two, with Kosti Katajamaki only 18.4 seconds behind. Alessandro Broccoli is third for Fiat, while Urmo Aava and Guerlain Chicherit complete the class top five.
In total only 41 of the original 65 starters returned to Kemer, following the opening leg's 501 km.
The second leg tomorrow [Saturday] promises to be just as gruelling. Competitors leave Kemer at 07.30 and tackle six more stages covering 153.60km, making it the longest day of the rally. The route covers similar territory to today with two loops of two tests before two more stages closer to Kemer complete the action. Drivers face two passes through the 36.10km Kumluca test, the longest of the rally. They return to Kemer for the final overnight halt at 19.57.