Just like in Spain seven days ago, Sebastien Loeb
utterly dominated the opening day of the Rallye de France-Tour Corse to leave his rivals looking more than a tad second rate.
Loeb romped into the lead immediately this morning on the thirteenth round in the World Rally Championship. Indeed he completed the opening test - the 15.92 kilometre-run through Acqua Doria-Serra di Ferro - in 9 minutes 27.4 seconds, 4 seconds up on Mikko Hirvonen, who was 'best of the rest'.
The four-time world champion then increased his advantage further in SS2 - to 7.2 seconds - before doubling it in SS3, to return to the mid-day halt at Port CCI with a 14.4 second cushion.
In the afternoon, on the repeat loop, the Citroen
star pushed on - 6.1 seconds up on Hirvonen in SS4 and 5.2 seconds ahead of his championship rival in SS5. With his sixth stage win in succession in Arbellara he ends the leg with a 32.3 second advantage.
"It's been an excellent day. We pushed hard and now we've got a good lead," said Loeb, who is looking to strengthen his position at the top of the drivers' championship and move closer to a record fifth world crown. "I think I will stay on this pace now in order to remain concentrated."
There is one key difference to Catalunya last week though and that is the absence of Dani Sordo in the sister 'works' C4 WRC.
Sordo had been running second overall post-SS2, until he hit a bank in the next stage and went out. Although Dani and co-driver Marti Marti both escaped uninjured, they were not able to continue. Assuming Sordo can rejoin the fold on day two under the SupeRally, he will pick up 20 minutes worth of penalties – something that will drop him way down the leaderboard.
Sordo's issues leave BP Ford
Abu Dhabi's Mikko Hirvonen
and Francois Duval second and third respectively - split by just 1.7 seconds - but neither had an answer to Loeb.
"I tried to stay in touch, but there was nothing I could do," Mikko admitted. "It's been a good opening leg despite everything, and the car is good. But that's just not enough against Sebastien."
Duval echoed those sentiments: "We are third for the moment and that's a good result, even though I hoped to be closer to Sebastien this evening."