Citroen Mixed Fortunes in Mexico

Citroen Mixed Fortunes in MexicoFrom Citroen Press [ 11/03/2005 ].
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Since Thursday's shakedown session, the two Xsaras have met with varying fortunes in Mexico. While the pre-start test session went off without a hitch for François Duval, Sébastien Loeb was forced to interrupt his run when the underneath of his car took a hefty knock from a big stone that had been either displaced or dug up by a preceding car.

Seb's Xsara was taken back to the main service park in Leon where, following a thorough check, the Citroën team noticed a crack in the cylinder block and was forced to change the engine.

Once the event itself got going, the two Citroëns were immediately on the pace with Sébastien setting the 2nd quickest time on SS1 (Ibarilla/El Zauco) and François following with the 4th best time. But then, as in shakedown, their fortunes differed…

François spent the entire day up with the front-runners and only had minor problems to report at the end of the day: "I did a half spin just after the start of SS1. The stages were more slippery than I thought. It felt as though my engine was running in safety mode for the first few hundred metres of each stage. Then, in a water splash, water found its way into the cockpit and caused some of the pages of Stéphane's pacenote book to stick together… Nothing serious!"

The Belgian held 3rd place for much of the day but dropped to 4th overall by a handful of seconds after the day's final stage, ‘Santana/Cubilete'. "My starting problem has now been resolved, although the set-up modification I asked for has not changed much : the roads were still very slippery. But given that this is my first gravel outing with the Xsara, I am quite pleased with my day and I intend to keep to the same pace tomorrow!"

Unlike his team-mate, Sébastien quickly found himself in trouble. A cracked strut mounting left his rear-right wheel with excessive camber on SS1 and the long road section that followed ended up destroying the tyre. For SS2 (‘La Esperanza'), the French crew put on the spare wheel but it too suffered the same fate and Seb and Daniel were forced to tackle the loop's third test, ‘Santana', on three wheels and one rim, although they took the precaution of neutralising the offending corner's brakes.

They succeeded in nursing the car back to service where the technical team restored it to perfect condition, including a complete transmission change. But the incident had proved costly in terms of time, the crew dropping more than four minutes in total…

With the morning's misfortune behind him, Seb enjoyed a much happier, incident- free second loop which saw him finish inside the top three on each stage, providing evidence of his potential which should enable him to climb back up the order on Saturday in his quest for points. "After being slowed during the morning's run through ‘La Esperanza' and ‘Santana', my second pass through these stages was in fact like a first attempt and I lost a little time. I like Rally Mexico, but it doesn't seem to like me. Tactically, I don't have much choice. The car is perfect, so I intend to drive as fast as is reasonable in the hope that, who knows, I can salvage some points."