Day 1 in Italy has come to a close and as usual there were heavy tactics in play amongst the front runners. Jari Mati-Latvala has opened a 40 second lead over teammate Mikko Hirvonen and has 42 seconds over Sebastian Loeb who is currently 3rd. Loeb stopped a full 10 seconds right before the finish line in an attempt to get further behind Hirvonen so that the Fords may plow the tough gravel on Day 2. Hirvonen attempted to slow down enough to keep it close and was unable to close the gap up. The BP team did however push Jari Matti as hard as he could go on the final stage in order to open a gap up for day 2. I agree with this strategy more than having the Citroens plow. If you are Ford at this point, you have tried tactics against Loeb and he has destroyed you at your own game. There is no sense in trying to do it again. Push your drivers hard and open up a large gap and make Loeb come after you. Both of the Ford drivers are very skilled in gravel conditions and know exactly what is expected of them on the second day. Petter Solberg wrapped up fourth on the day in his Citroen Xsara with new upgrades, and Citroen Junior driver Evgeny Novikov is currently in a great fifth position for the junior team. Considering the problems the team have been having all year with keeping cars on the stages, fifth is a welcomed result.
Patrick Flodin has the lead in the Production class and has been running fast all day, however he was complaining of very hot conditions on the stages and is physically taking a beating. His lead was compliments of break problems for Qatar driver Nasser al-Attiyah who is looking for another great finish in an attempt to stretch his lead in the points.
Martin Prokop’s Citroen C2 was leading most of the day, but electrical issues on the final stage have seen him accumulate 90 seconds in penalties and seen his lead dissapear as he will now start 5th in the Junior class.
The rally has been as exciting as ever but in my opinion we need to take a look at the starting order rules for the series. There should be no reason as to why a car stops on circuit in order to gain a tactical advantage. I understand that you must put your driver in the best position to win, but the point of racing is to win stages and we should not have cars being penalized for winning stages. Here are the day 1 result from Italy:
|10.||10||Khalid AL QASSIMI||1:27:14.4||+2:59.9|