Sebastien Loeb bent a front wishbone in his Xsara and had to drive for 35km with poor handling in the day's first competitive section. He also pulled over to let Markko Martin and Petter Solberg
past, losing a further minute and a half while he waited. But the young Frenchman holds a top-10 placing overnight. Team-mate Thomas Radstrom lost most of his time when he had to complete more than 40km on three wheels after steering failure. He dropped out of the top 10 as a result but, thank to other drivers' problems, finished the day in seventh.
Thomas Radstrom said: “Our shock absorbers have been too stiff for a lot of today's stages and we have to soften them for tomorrow.”
The Mitsubishi Lancer Evo WRCs of Alister McRae and Francois Delecour started today's opening leg reliably, but then both hit rear damper problems in the second competitive section. The Frenchman then retired on the road section shortly after CS3, when his car's engine expired. McRae suffered from a small brake pressure problem in the same stage, then broke a track control arm in the day's last test.
Francois Delecour lost time behind Juha Kankkunen's crippled Hyundai on the day's opening section - the Frenchman had to complete 30km behind the four-times world champion before he could inch past, and he felt he lost around two minutes in the process. He then ceded more time to his rivals with rear damper problems in CS2 and after the following test, his car's engine stopped on the road section and refused to re-start. Alister McRae started steadily this morning, then lost time in CS2 with a broken rear damper (a different problem to Delecour's). He recovered to set third fastest time in CS3 but he lost a large amount of time in the day's last stage when he had to stop to change a track control arm.
Alister McRae said: “It's quite disappointing to lose so much time so early in the event but then, we're already seeing that most people are having problems so if you can just get through, you stand a chance. The biggest frustration is that when we've had a clean run, the car's felt quite strong.”
Hyundai has suffered a tough opening day on the first Safari for the Accent WRC3. Freddy Loix's car retired halfway through the day's opening section with a burnt-out clutch. Armin Schwarz suffered turbo problems on the same test and although he reached service, his car's engine stopped and refused to restart on the road to the following section. Juha Kankkunen lost time with a broken right-front shock absorber in this morning's opening section and a similar problem in CS3, but it generally performed reliably otherwise.
Hyundai lost two of its cars before the day's second competitive section this morning. Freddy Loix's car hit clutch problems halfway through CS1 and although the Belgian stopped to allow the unit to cool, too much damage had been done and the car could proceed no further. Armin Schwarz lost turbo boost in that same test and although the German reached the following service area, his car's engine stopped on the way to CS2 and it refused to restart. The Hyundai team attributed the problem to a broken alternator. Juha Kankkunen, meanwhile, lost time in today's opening section when he had to complete 60km of section and 20km of road section with a broken right-front shock absorber. His team had to effect major repairs at the following service, and he was five minutes late at the time control as a result. He ended the day outside the top 10.
Juha Kankkunen said: “This has been a typical difficult Safari day, really. We knew coming here that it would be tough because we didn't have a lot of testing and it's been as we expected.”
The Kenyan roads have created havoc in the Group N category for more standard machinery. Marcos Ligato suffered a misfire and stopped three times in CS3 with electrical problems, but he still entered the day's last section nearly a minute clear of Toshihiro Arai. The Japanese driver's progress had been hampered by persistent shock absorber problems. Italain Alex Fiorio retired on the last CS.