Sebastien Loeb has taken it easy this weekend and is still leading Rally Spain by 3.8secs over future teammate and Citroen Junior driver Sebastien Ogier. Loeb’s lead does come as a surprise as the first leg has a mixture of both tarmac and gravel. The Frenchman was first on the roads and sacrificed little time because of it. Jari-Matti Latvala is currently in third which is slightly below what the team were hoping. The idea was to have JML utilize his fast gravel pace to put a lead over the Citroens before the next two legs of solid tarmac.
An early morning fog would see that visibility would come at a premium. This could also be a small look into why Loeb was so dominant until the afternoon. The 2010 champion would use superior notes to keep him ahead as other drivers were a little less than comfortable with their pace as confidence is a must in conditions like these. The very fog that was tricky to navigate through can also be used to explain Loeb’s pace due to the surface. The fog itself keeps the gravel from becoming really loose. So with the heavy fog, it was more like driving on a tarmac road as opposed to a loose gravel stage. American Ken Block stated during mid day service that it was like driving on gummy bears. Whatever that is supposed to mean… 0.O
Speaking of Ken Block, a calm and easy day would see him in the 9th position. A cautious approach and experience building event for Ken would see him not push overly hard for time.
The real disappointment of the day would come from Danni Sordo. The Spaniard would not be a factor during this first leg and is currently slotted in sixth position behind Mikko Hirvonen of Ford. AS we predicted on the show, we thought that Citroen would go out of their way to assist Sordo in winning his first rally and home event, but you have to be close to the front to get that option and at this moment it is just not possible. We know that Sordo is not a gravel ace, but even now it is going to be very difficult to make up time to the front running cars.
We will be back tomorrow with a brief wrap-up of leg 2 from Spain which should be interesting as JML and Petter Solberg battle for third on stage and third in the title race.
Pos Driver Car Time/Gap
1. Sebastien Loeb Citroen 1h25m26.8s
2. Sebastien Ogier Citroen + 3.8s
3. Jari-Matti Latvala Ford + 19.9s
4. Petter Solberg Citroen + 22.4s
5. Mikko Hirvonen Ford + 42.4s
6. Dani Sordo Citroen + 54.7s
7. Matthew Wilson Ford + 2m46.9s
8. Federico Villagra Ford + 3m21.2s
9. Ken Block Ford + 3m42.8s
10. Henning Solberg Ford + 4m21.6s