The Citroën Total WRT on the right track
Rally Finland - Day one
The first day of Rally Finland was the theatre of a thrilling battle between the best six drivers in the world championship. With its two C4 WRCs in third and fourth places, the Citroën Total World Rally Team achieved the best overall team result. Sébastien Ogier and Julien Ingrassia are in the first three, a few seconds in front of their team-mates Sébastien Loeb and Daniel Elena.
The start of the 60th Rally Finland was given on Thursday evening in stiffling heat. After the short Laajavuori stage, the crews went back to the parc fermé in Jyväskylä for the night. Today, Friday, the programme was a whole lot more hectic with ten stages totalling over 140 kilometres. Showers that had fallen during the night made the roads a bit damper and also brought down the temperature. “Thanks to the rain, our position of being first out on the road was much les penalizing,” said Sébastien Loeb at the end of SS2 in which he set the third-quickest time.
But in SS3 (Jukojärvi 1), the six-time world champion was obliged to lift off: “We damaged the front bumper by hitting a few posts on an apex and the aero balance of the car was affected, which is a bit upsetting at high speed. The car’s nose had a tendency to lift in the jumps and it understeered in the quick curves. We still have two stages to cover in these conditions: I’ll try and adapt my driving style to lose as little time as possible.”
When the time came to rejoin Jyväskylä for the midday service halt, Loeb was in fifth place around 20 seconds behind Petter Solberg, the rally leader, after Mikko Hirvonen’s retirement. At that stage of the rally Sébastien Ogier was lying fourth after setting the fastest time in SS4: “We made a cautious start but the grip was better than I expected, and I was able to up the pace. We didn’t take too many risks this morning,” explained Ogier who was promoted to the Citroën Total World Rally Team this weekend.
The afternoon began with the long Lankamaa stage. This time, Loeb was obliged to sweep the road for his rivals and lost another ten seconds. Topping the time sheets in the two passages through Myhinpää (SS8 and 10), the driver of the no.1 C4 WRC moved up two places to take fourth. “It wasn’t an easy day! The others are motoring very quickly and I lost a bit of time here and there. I don’t really know to what extent I was handicapped by being first out on the road today. We’re starting fourth tomorrow and we’ll see if that changes anything. I’m going to continue to push, but winning looks a bit problematic given Jari-Matti Latvala’s lead.”
Third in SS6 (Lankamaa), Ogier held on to that position all afternoon. On what is only his second outing in Rally Finland at the wheel of a WRC, the young Frenchman surprised onlookers yet again: “It was a good day. Apart from the Jukojärvi stage where I didn’t really feel at ease we were always as quick as the best. We’re not too far off the first two, and tomorrow we’ll see if circumstances will help us close the gap to them.”
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