As much as I try to usually write my own reviews for rally and the other motorpsorts we cover here, i must appeal to the brilliant folks at WRC.com . This is their words and not my own. None the less it is a great wrap up of day 1 and even gets into the nitty gritty details.
Citroen Total team driver Dani Sordo holds the lead of the Rally de Espana tonight after the first day of competition on the fast and flowing asphalt roads near Salou.
But while Sordo brought his C4 back to the Service Park in first place this evening, his rally lead, which had been up to 4.9sec earlier in the day, had been trimmed to just 1.6sec by the man in second place – his team-mate Sebastien Loeb.
Even though the anticipated duel between title hopefuls Loeb and Mikko Hirvonen dominated the pre-rally build up, it was Sordo who delivered on the opening day – the Spaniard going fastest on the first four stages. In the afternoon, however, Sordo faced stronger opposition from Loeb, after the Frenchman cured an understeering problem by making set-up changes in the service before SS4.
Loeb was the stage winner on the final two stages of the day and looks likely to move ahead of Sordo on Saturday, completing a one-two formation which would net Citroen the 2009 manufacturers’ title and put Loeb in the best position to defend his drivers’ crown on the remaining round in Wales.
At the end of SS6 Sordo said: “It’s been a good day for me. Yes, Loeb is coming really fast but we will see what happens tomorrow. Everything was okay for me, though. The tyres were more difficult to judge this afternoon because the temperature was high and we had a little understeer, but it’s been good.”
After a shaky start on the first three stages, when the handling of his car gave him cause for concern, Loeb headed back to service after SS6 in a positive frame of mind. “I’m happy because we are still very close to first place but the main thing is that it’s not Mikko who’s first…” he said. “We did struggle a bit in the morning when I had a setting that didn’t give me confidence but in the afternoon the car was perfect. Dani has been very fast all day so tomorrow I will continue to push.”
Championship leader Mikko Hirvonen ended Friday’s competition in third – only one place shy of his goal for the rally, but a distant 32.6 seconds adrift. Hirvonen said: “It looked like we had good speed on the first stage, when it was a bit damp, but when the conditions dried out they just got away. I pushed as hard as I could but I couldn’t match their speed. I wasn’t 100 per cent happy in the morning and although things were better this afternoon, we’re not there yet. I really want to get second place here, though. If I could do that this weekend, another second in GB would be enough for the title.”
Citroen privateer Petter Solberg ended the day fourth, 25.5 seconds behind Hirvonen, after a trouble-free and increasingly rapid day at the wheel of his new C4 World Rally Car. “We lost a little time on the first stage this morning, but we’re been very close to the guys ahead for the rest of the day so I’m very happy,” said the Norwegian. “This evening I’ll look though the data and see where I’m losing time, where I can brake later and stay on the throttle longer. It’s a bit like going back to school – I’ve got some learning to do.”
Citroen Junior team driver Sebastien Ogier ended the day fifth, 23.2sec behind Solberg. After reporting brake problems throughout the morning’s stages, the Frenchman was happy with his afternoon performance. “The day got better as it went on and now the feeling is okay and the car works well,” he said. “The plan for tomorrow is to continue as we are now; there’s long was to go and a big gap ahead of use, but we will see.”
Jari-Matti Latvala holds overnight sixth and shared Ogier’s optimism after struggling to find a good driving rhythm in the morning. “I think this afternoon we have almost halved the difference to the leaders we had in the morning so that’s why I’m satisfied,” he explained. “It’s getting better but it would be nice to battle with Ogier again. Let’s see how we go.”
On his first WRC outing alongside co-driver Stephane Prevot, Russian youngster Evgeny Novikov brought his C4 WRC back to service in seventh. “The afternoon was
better than the first loop,” he said. “I didn’t make any changes to the car today and I feel confident in my driving, but I’m finding it very difficult to get the pace notes right. I’m losing time especially in medium-speed corners, but hopefully things will improve as we build experience. I also need to alter my notes after the first pass – we’ll try that tomorrow.”
Briton Matthew Wilson rounded off the top eight points-winning places in his Stobart team Ford Focus RS WRC.