Citroen DS3 WRC

From Citroën press: The Citroën Total World Rally Team has had a perfect day as its two DS3 WRCs currently occupy the first two places at the end of the first day of Rally Jordan. The leaders, Sébastien Ogier and Julien Ingrassia, decided to go pedal to the metal. Tomorrow, they’ll have to sweep the road for Sébastien Loeb and Daniel Elena. If they want to score another victory in the Middle East, the seven-time world champions will have to close a 31.6-second gap and keep an eye in their rearview mirrors.

The eagerly-awaited Rally Jordan finally kicked off this morning. After the cancellation of the first day, the event began with SS7, the very quick Suwayma stage. Despite setting off in second position, Sébastien Loeb set the fastest time to become the first leader. The Citroën DS3 WRCs were in their element on this terrain and took all the quickest times in the opening loop of three stages. Petter Solberg (SS8) and Sébastien Ogier (SS9) bagged a best time each. The latter went into the lead with under 10 seconds in hand over Solberg, Loeb and Latvala.

“We kept up a good pace in the first three stages without taking big risks,” said the leader when he came back to the service park overlooking the Dead Sea. “The gaps between the front-runners are small and yet again we see that sweeping doesn’t have as much importance as in previous years. In some places the road is so dirty that even the repeated passage of the cars isn’t cleaning it. We’ll have to think about the strategy to adopt for the second loop. To stay in front and open the road tomorrow, I think we’ll have to pull out a minimum gap of around twenty seconds.”

Once again, the way things were shaping up did not become clear until the final stage of the day. Ogier decided to adopt a maximum attack strategy and go flat out. He emulated his morning’s performance by setting the quickest time in the long Jordan River stage. This helped the winner of the recent Portuguese Rally to keep the lead in the overall classification: “We suspected that all the drivers would adopt the same strategy, but thanks to our fourth place on the road we were able to cope with that. We decided to push as hard as we dared to pull out the biggest possible gap. Thirty seconds isn’t bad but even so it’s not all that big a cushion. We’ll have to continue to push as three other drivers are still in with a chance of winning. We’ve already come out on top in such a situation in the past, so I don’t feel either relaxed or stressed. There’ll be a bit less sweeping tomorrow. I feel that we can win this rally.”

“We let slip around ten seconds on purpose to encourage our rivals to go quicker and stay in front,” said Loeb. “Without taking this gamble, I think I’d probably have finished the day at the front with Ogier with Solberg and Latvala a few seconds behind. In these conditions my chances of a podium finish were virtually nil. We had to try something: maybe I’ve given too much away, maybe it’ll pay off. We’ll see!”

Jari-Matti Latvala and Petter Solberg are waiting in ambush behind the seven-time world champion, only five seconds adrift. “Before thinking about catching my team-mate, I’ll have to make sure those two stay behind. By being second out on the road, it seems possible but not certain,” was how Loeb summed things up.

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