Spain - day 1: Sordo stays top - but Loeb closes
2 October 2009
Citroen's Dani Sordo has ended day one of the Rally de Espana at the top of the leaderboard, narrowly in front of his team-mate, Sebastien Loeb.
Sordo took the lead immediately this morning, and was fastest in the 20.48 kilometre-run through La Mussara, even though overnight rain made conditions tricky for all 70 starting crews. He then set the pace again in SS2 and SS3 to return to the mid-day halt at PortAventura with a 4.8 second cushion.
However this afternoon, despite extending his advantage ever so slightly in SS4, he lost out in SS5 and SS6, trailing Loeb by 0.9 seconds in Querol 2 and 2.4 seconds in El Montmell 2. Consequently he will now go into the second day 1.6 seconds ahead.
Loeb meanwhile was happy to end proceedings in second, especially as arch championship rival, Mikko Hirvonen is back in third – and over 30 seconds adrift, already effectively no threat to the Frenchman.
"It is the first day and we are close to first place," said Loeb. "It is looking good so far because the Citroens are in the first two places."
Hirvonen was second fastest in the first test of the day, but then had to settle for third best in all the rest. Indeed while he is comfortably ahead of Petter Solberg, who is fourth on his maiden outing with a C4, he has been unable to match Sordo and Loeb and was disappointed not to have ended the day a bit closer to the top two.
"I'm not happy with third in the provisional standings," confirmed Hirvonen, who of course leads the race for the 2009 WRC drivers' title by 5 points. "I would like to be able to battle for second place."
Further down the order Sebastien Ogier completes the top five, and the Citroen Junior Team man has managed to pull ahead of Jari-Matti Latvala this afternoon, the gap up from just 0.8 seconds post-SS3 to 13.8 heading into the overnight stop. Both though are someway off Solberg, who is over 20 seconds ahead in P4.
"We had some brake problems," Petter explained. "But I still tried to push hard, while at the same time trying to ensure I bring the car home."
Further down the order, Evgeny Novikov lies seventh, albeit 1.5 minutes off Latvala, followed by Stobart Ford's Matthew Wilson, who was slowed slightly this morning with brake problems.
Federico Villagra and Henning Solberg round out the top ten, the latter slipping down from ninth to tenth in the final stage of the day.
In the Junior World Rally Championship category, Martin Prokop overhauled fellow Citroen C2 S1600 man Hans Weijs Jr in the first stage this afternoon. Prokop then proceeded to pull away and finished SS6 with a 12 second cushion.
Jordi Marti completes the provisional JWRC podium, 8.9 seconds ahead of the Suzuki Swift of Aaron Burkart.
As for retirements, the only major casualty was BP Ford Abu Dhabi 'third' driver, Khalid Al Qassimi, who stopped on the road section after SS4. It is not yet known if he will re-start under the SupeRally. He had been running in P11.
The action now continues tomorrow with SS7 - El Priorat / La Ribera d'Ebre 1 (38.27km) - the longest test of the event, set to start at 09.14 hours [local time]. Day two consists of three different stages, with the afternoon loop, like today, a repeat of the morning. In total around 128 competitive kilometres will be run.