Citroen and Loeb kick butt!
26 August 2005
Citroen team leader, Sebastien Loeb has stamped his authority on the opening day of the Rallye Deutschland Friday, as he looks to win the event for the fourth year in succession.
Loeb was quickest through all of the day's six tests, bar one, when Francois Duval went fastest in SS3 to steal the lead off his team-mate, heading into the mid-day service. Loeb though soon went back in front once proceedings resumed in the afternoon, with a re-run through each of the mornings tests, and he now overnights 11.7 seconds up on Duval.
During a day in which conditions were dry and sunny, Duval though for once was more than a match for Loeb, and while he ended the day second, he was right up their with the Frenchman throughout the leg putting in easily his best performance of the year. Indeed Duval helped ensure Citroen were 1-2 in every test.
Rally Finland winner, Marcus Gronholm heads the chasing pack, but the Finn is 1 minute behind Duval and seemingly already in a pretty lonely battle for the final place on the podium.
Petter Solberg is next up in his Subaru Impreza, but he is a further minute adrift of Gronholm's Peugeot. 'Hollywood' had a minor spin in SS1, losing him around 5-7 seconds, but other than that, it was a pretty uneventful day for the Norwegian.
Toni Gardemeister meanwhile is fifth for Ford, just 6 seconds or so up on Roman Kresta, the Finn getting ahead of his team-mate on SS5, when he went off the road. Kresta also lost time earlier on in the day in SS3 with a puncture otherwise he would have been in front.
Markko Martin and Gigi Galli round out the provisional points' scorers, in seventh and eighth respectively, the former was running fourth prior to a mistake in Schones Moselland 1, when he hit a wall, dropping him down the order. That incident took the wheel off the rim and Martin lost 30 seconds while limping to the end of the stage.
Skoda team leader, Armin Schwarz is just one place out of the points on his home event, with Daniel Sola tenth, the best of the non-works drivers, in his semi-privateer Ford Focus.
Of the remaining works drivers, Harri Rovanpera is eleventh, followed by Jan Kopecky in 13th, in the third works Skoda Fabia WRC, one place behind Xavier Pons. Subaru's Stephane Sarrazin and Chris Atkinson are 14th and 15th respectively, both having had a miserable day - the former lost time when his handbrake lever broke in SS3, while an off track excursion in SS5, lost him even more time - around 2 minutes. Atkinson had turbo problems from the off this morning and as such, he has been handicapped from the word go.
The only leading retirement of the day was Skoda's Alex Bengue who went off the road in SS3. Despite limited damage, he will not re-start Saturday under the SupeRally format.
In the Junior WRC, just like in the 'senior' class, Citroen have dominated, Daniel Sordo leading from the off and now 16.6 seconds up on Kris Meeke, in the sister C2 S1600.
Guy Wilks is third in the Swift, which is making its asphalt debut this weekend, followed by fellow Suzuki drivers, Per-Gunnar Andersson and Kosti Katajamaki.
The action now resumes Saturday with the second leg - the longest and toughest of the event. Much of it is based on the challenging Baumholder military land, more commonly used by US soldiers for tank training exercises. The road surface varies almost constantly, including fast, wide asphalt, highly abrasive broken concrete, and treacherously slippery sand-covered cobblestones. There are more than 100 surface changes in only 48km of speed tests. The two Baumholder stages will be used twice, as will a more flowing Saarland test before the day ends with a spectacular stage through the streets of St Wendel. In total, leg two covers seven stages and 146 competitive kilometres.
SS7 - Bosenburg 1 [22.06km] starts at 08.36 hours local time [07.36 hours British time].
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