25 Apr 08
The combination of a sixth-stage puncture and fixing the fuel-related problem at lunchtime has cost Sebastien Ogier any chance of winning the J-WRC element of Jordan Rally - and given his chief rival Patrik Sandell hope of taking another title.
After Ogier’s round one win in Mexico, Sandell said he knew he needed to take 10 points home from the Middle East to keep himself in the frame for the 2008 honours. After scrapping with Ogier’s Citroen this morning, the Frenchman’s troubles allowed Sandell to move comfortably clear at the head of the J-WRC field. Sandell is close to a minute up on his nearest rival at the end of day one.
“Given that I’m still not so confident on asphalt, I needed 30 points from this rally and the next two gravel rallies to stand a chance this year,” said Sandell. “It’s tough for Sebastien, but it’s good for me to be in this position.”
Despite changing the brake pads and discs in service, Sandell’s Renault Clio still struggled for stopping power in SS6 - the re-run of the longest stage of the day. “I bled the brakes after SS6, so that helped for the next one. It wasn’t as bad as this morning.”
Second-placed Jaan Molder admitted he was struggling to match Sandell’s pace, particularly as he was still struggling to get to grips with the handling of his Suzuki Swift. Suzuki Sport Europe had changed to softer dampers for the afternoon, but the Estonian still felt the car was sliding too much. “It’s hard to get the confidence when this is happening,” said Molder.
The good news for him, however, was that he was comfortably ahead of his nearest J-WRC rival, Alessandro Bettega - who moved into third place in his Clio. The Italian’s elevation in the classification came at the cost of Molder’s team-mate Michal Kosciuszko. His Swift stopped at the start of the sixth stage with an engine problem. The Polish driver is expected to return to the action for tomorrow’s second day.
Irishman Shaun Gallagher moved up the order through the afternoon to hold fourth by the close of play. Gallagher was, however, concerned by a gearbox problem which had manifested itself on the run back into the Dead Sea service park. Gilles Schammel was just 3.7 seconds adrift of the Citroen driver, despite putting his Clio off the road in the seventh stage causing damage to the front of the car. “The accident wasn’t so bad, but now I’m worried about the engine temperature - it was very high in the last stage,” said Schammel.