25 June 2004
Loeb heads WRC pack in Turkey.
Citroen's Sebastien Loeb has the advantage in the Rally of Turkey following leg one today [Friday], the Frenchman setting two fastest stage times to pull out a 7.5 second lead over second-placed Marcus Gronholm.
Damper roads undoubtedly aided the championship leader as the road sweeping effect was less marked, enabling him to capitalise on the conditions, which were unusually wet.
"To be leading tonight is far better than what I expected," he commented at the end of the day. "I am in a good position for tomorrow, but I'm sure it will tough as Marcus Gronholm is very close. I will have to push."
Gronholm has promised he will 'attack' tomorrow...
"We're on the provisional podium and with a chance to fight for the lead, which is the most important thing," he added. "In the morning I did not feel too confident, but during the afternoon I had quite a good feeling with the car and I was able to push a bit. Tomorrow I have to attack, but it's also vital not to make any mistakes."
Petter Solberg meanwhile holds third, despite losing time with a spin early this morning and suffering a crushed air intake pipe sustained in the infamous stage four water crossing.
"It's been a difficult day let me tell you," noted the Subaru number one. "I tried to do my best but the water splash thing wasn't good and we lost a lot of time there. The conditions were very unusual today, and we've struggled to get the tyre choices and the cuts just right but hopefully, looking at the forecast, tomorrow will be a different story. Carlos is fairly close behind, but when I start tomorrow I'll be looking forward, not in the mirror. I don't think that on this rally Sebastien is too far ahead, we've seen today that anything can happen so let's wait and see."
Carlos Sainz is fourth with Francois Duval fifth in the lead Ford. The Belgian lost time this morning with a poor tyre choice and then the Focus dropped onto three cylinders this afternoon, again after the same water splash.
"It was a pity about our tyres this morning but apart from that it's been a good day," reckoned Duval. "Sainz and Solberg are not too far ahead so we will see what happens. The dust was bad on the final stage tonight and three times I nearly had to stop. I've tried hard to regain some of the seconds we lost this morning and to lose them again like that is annoying."
Harri Rovanpera, the stage four victor, lies sixth while Mikko Hirvonen is more than a minute adrift after losing time when he punctured the radiator on a rock.
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