Sebastien Loeb will hope to make the most of his second place starting order on the second leg of the Rally New Zealand after seeing his hopes of leading after day one scuppered by engine problems.
As the first driver out on the roads, Loeb was determined to push through the untouched surface but very nearly ended up on his roof when he cut a corner and struck a rock. Lifting his Citroen onto two wheels, Loeb nonetheless continued with only a little time – and a bit of confidence - lost.
Still, the championship leader did a fine job to stay in touch with early leader Mikko Hirvonen after the first loop of stages before forging back up the order on the second run and securing three consecutive stage wins.
However, a problem starting the C4 at the beginning of SS6 saw Loeb drop 30secs in time penalties leaving him 27.8secs adrift overnight.
"We pushed as hard as we could," he said "We even closed to within seven tenths of the lead by the end of SS4.1. Unfortunately, we stalled before the start of SS4.2 and the engine refused to fire up again. We had to push the car to get it started and we checked in late. That cost us valuable time which we will need to try to claw back tomorrow."
Although Hirvonen ponders whether the engine problem is merely a cover for a tactical decision to keep Loeb behind him in terms of running order [see separate story], the reigning champion was pleased with his performance in the role as 'road-sweeper'
"We can't fault our C4 WRC. Its set-up is perfect for these stages and it is handling excellently. Despite the limited amount of grip that was available, I pushed as hard as I could. We were forced to use hard compound tyres which didn't work well on the cold, hard-packed ground we found this morning. On top of that, we had so much road-sweeping to do that it was really difficult to post quick times.”