Loeb and Elena in the lead on Spanish gravel


The Catalonian gravel added some spice to the first day of the Spanish round of the World Rally Championship!

Sébastien Loeb and Daniel Elena opened the road on the six stages which made up the leg, and they have put themselves in a strong position by taking the lead in the overall classification. Sébastien Ogier and Julien Ingrassia were delayed by a puncture, and are currently lying fourth in the second Citroën Total World Rally Team DS3 WRC.

Rally Spain, the only mixed event of the season, began with a day on gravel. The three stages to be coveredtwice were laid out in the mountains to the west of Tarragon and represented 40% of the total timed distanceof the rally.

Sébastien Loeb, who was a bit apprehensive about the sweeping he had to do on the first day, found anunexpected ally in the dust, which played a decisive role right from the start of the first stage. The seven-timeworld champion set the fastest time in Peselis (SS1), and went into the rally lead while Sébastien Ogier lost18 seconds almost straight away. “In the first stage we couldn’t see anything because of the dust thrown upby the cars that started ahead of us,” explained Ogier. “The further we drove the more the sunrise, whichwas straight in front of us, made things difficult. Some clouds of dust were so thick that I had to brake on thestraights on several occasions. It was impossible to know where we were.”

At the midday break, Loeb was happy to be in the lead despite being first out on the road. Ogier in thirdplace was hoping to take advantage of the second loop to close the gap. Unfortunately, a puncture in SS5cost him 1m 40s.

Sébastien Loeb and Daniel Elena found that sweeping was more of a handicap than in the morning and theydropped a few seconds here and there in the stages. They lost their lead at the end of SS4, but were back infront by the end of the day. Latvala was in first place till he spun in SS6 and the seven-time world championsarrived back in the Salou service park with a 30-second lead. “We’re in an ideal position,” said Loeb. “Ouraim was not to lose too much time in relation to our rivals. Finishing the day twenty seconds behind Latvalawould have suited me. And in the end, we’ve got a lead of thirty seconds, so it’s perfect! I had to push veryhard all day. Tomorrow, being first out on the road will no longer be a handicap and we can choose therhythm that we want to impose on the rally.”

The first day’s racing ended with a 75-minute service halt during which the Citroën Total World Rally Teammechanics transformed the DS3 WRCs into tarmac setup.

“With Sébastien Loeb first and Sébastien Ogier fifth, we’re well placed to clinch Citroën’s seventh world titlethis weekend. Loeb drove a perfect day in the context of the drivers’ title. Despite his puncture, Ogier is stillin the running for a place on the podium. But we have to be on our guard as a whole new rally startstomorrow on tarmac,” summed up Olivier Quesnel, the Citroën Racing Team Principal. On Saturday’sprogramme are six stages, a total of 144 timed kilometers. Sébastien Loeb and Daniel Elena will be the firstto leave the service park at 8h45.

The figuresSébastien Loeb / Daniel Elena Sébastien Ogier / Julien IngrassiaSS1: Peselis 1 (25,74 km) 1st 1st 3rd +18.0s 3rd +18.0sSS2: Terra Alta 1 (35,94 km) 2nd +1.2s 1st 1st 3rd +16.8sSS3: Les Garrigues 1 (18,50 km) 3rd +4.9s 1st 1st 3rd +11.9sSS4: Peselis 2 (25,74 km) 4th +13.3s 2nd +8.0s 2nd +3.9s 3rd +10.5sSS5: Terra Alta 2 (35,94 km) 2nd +8.0s 2nd +16.0s 2nd +1m 41.4s 5th +1m 51.9sSS6: Les Garrigues 2 (18,50 km) 1st 1st 2nd +9.4s 4th +1m 45.3s

Fastest times in the stagesDay 1 – SS1: Sébastien Loeb (Citroën DS3 WRC) – SS2 and 3: Sébastien Ogier (Citroën DS3 WRC) –SS4 and 5: Jari-Matti Latvala (Ford Fiesta RS WRC) – SS6: Loeb.Best performers: Loeb, Ogier and Latvala, 2 fastest times each.Leaders: SS1 to 3: Loeb – SS4 and 5: Latvala – SS6: Loeb.

General classification Day 11 S. Loeb / D. Elena Citroën DS3 WRC 1h44m06.3s2 JM. Latvala / M. Antilla Ford Fiesta RS WRC +30.6s3 M. Hirvonen / J. Lehtinen Ford Fiesta RS WRC +52.2s4 S. Ogier / J. Ingrassia Citroën DS3 WRC +1m 45.3s5 D. Sordo / C. del Barrio Mini JCW +2m 02.7s6 K. Meeke / P. Nagle Mini JCW +2m 52.8s7 M. Ostberg / J. Andersson Ford Fiesta RS WRC +3m 03.1s8 H. Solberg / I. Minor Ford Fiesta RS WRC +3m 11.6s9 E. Novikov / D. Giraudet Citroën DS3 WRC +4m 24.8s10 M. Wilson / S. Martin Ford Fiesta RS WRC +5m 16.8s