26 Apr 08
As Patrik Sandell (Renault Clio) went about the business of doubling his lead to two minutes at the head of the Junior World Rally Championship field, Frenchman Sebastien Ogier blasted his Citroen C2 Super 1600 to fastest times on three of the morning’s four stages.
Sandell’s extended lead came as much through the Swede’s consistent pace as a differential problem for second-placed man Jaan Molder. Sandell’s morning had, however, been action-packed, with two spins in consecutive stages. “We dropped more time with the first one in SS10,” said the leader. “The car slid wide in a hairpin. Then we spun again in stage 11. And, for the next two stages, we had a fault with the battery. There was no charge in the battery. We can fix this now. It’s not so bad. It’s nice to be here with two minutes.”
Molder was deeply depressed with his problems. He admitted there was more than an element of self-infliction to the troubles he’d endured. “When we left service this morning I noticed the car was pulling to the left,” he said. “I hadn’t noticed this last night, but the differential is broken. It’s been terrible this morning. On the last stage, there was a steep hill after the watersplash and I didn’t think we would get up it. We had to reverse back and take a run up. We dropped about a minute in there.”
Ogier had started the day eighth in the Junior standings, but he had his sights set firmly on bettering a potential one point from his trip to the Jordan Rally. He pulled 9.3 seconds out of Sandell on the first test and then stopped the clocks 25.5 seconds faster than any of his rivals - taking more than two seconds per kilometre out of everybody in the 12.47km Erak Elamir test. By the time the cars returned to the service park, the round one winner had achieved his aim and was up to third. “It’s been a very good morning,” he said. “I have much more confidence in the car than I had yesterday. I am able to set some good times, but at the same time I am looking after the car. This is a rough rally in places and you wouldn’t want to hit too many stones. It’s good, though. I am enjoying it and, of course, it’s very nice to be third.”
Ogier’s elevation to third has demoted Alessandro Bettega to fourth. The Italian is still struggling with the set-up of his car. “I still have no confidence and we are continuing to make the car softer. It’s difficult - very difficult.”
Shaun Gallagher remains fifth despite prolonged gearbox trouble. “I’m amazed to still be here,” he said. “Maybe it’s the luck of the Irish!”