Three Xsaras in the points

Three Xsaras in the pointsFrom Citroen Press [ 19/05/2006 ].
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At the end of a very difficult first leg, run in intensely hot conditions, Sébastien Loeb and Daniel Elena occupy second place in the provisional classification, 35.4 seconds behind Marcus Grönholm. Dani Sordo and Marc Marti are fifth while Xevi Pons and Carlos Del Barrio are eighth. All three Citroen Xsara crews from the Kronos Racing Team are therefore in strong points-scoring positions for both championships.

During the recce, Sébastien Loeb noted that the stages scheduled for
today were covered in a thick layer of sand, loose gravel, or tiny
stones. By virtue of running first on the road, he was forced to sweep
it clean for the following competitors during the first loop of stages.
« It’s the price you have to pay for leading the championship, » said
Seb. « I’m hoping that I’ll pay it for the rest of the season ! On the
first stage, Terranova, I wasn’t in a particularly good rhythm. Marcus
[Grönholm] set off at a very fast pace, and because of the threeminute
gap between the cars [owing to the amount of dust on the
stages] I didn’t get his first split time until a third of the way through
the stage. I tried to react, but I had already given too much time
away. On the remaining two stages of that loop, I drove very quickly
in order to try and reverse the trend. I was very curious to know what
it would be like on the second run through the stages, on abrasive
roads that had already been swept clean of loose gravel. We won two
out of the three stages and got back five seconds. Tomorrow, when
road conditions are equal for everybody, there are a few more things
that we can try. I’m going to do everything I can to have a go at
reducing the gap. It should be a really good battle, just as myself and
Marcus both like it… »

Xevi Pons, who started 10th, found « roads that had been swept
clean, but were also very rough in places, with lots of loose stones
that had been pulled out. » The Spaniard steered a careful course over
« stages that were very difficult and narrow, making it impossible to
slide the car at all. » During the second loop of stages, he had an
unsettling incident on Onani [SS5] when his handbrake lever broke. «
I think this incident caused the handbrake to remain slightly on until
the end of the stage, » said Xevi. « Before Siniscola [SS6] we were
able to carry out running repairs which were not perfect but just about
did the job. On the same stage we punctured both tyres on the right
hand side, but these remained inflated thanks to the mousse. All in all,
it’s been a good day. Tomorrow I think I’ll up my pace a bit, as I
reckon we can do something good here… »

Dani Sordo reprised his role as Kronos Racing’s third man, under no
pressure whatsoever. The Spaniard ended his day in style with a solid
fourth-fastest time in Siniscola [SS6]. «It was a stage where I had
already had a lot of fun in the morning, with the very fast and narrow
section at the end, » he said . « The slight understeer I had in the
morning was corrected by the team at service, giving me a perfect car
for the afternoon’s stages. I made no mistakes and had a lot of fun. It
means that I am now fifth, and very, very happy… »

« The contest for victory seems to me to be still wide open, » pointed
out Marc Van Dalen, Team Principal of Kronos Racing. «Thirty
seconds is worth a lot but at the same time very little. Seb and Daniel
are more than capable of making up the gap. They already did it once
in Mexico, and in any case they have to try… »