25 Jan 08
Sebastien Loeb rounded off the morning loop of stages with the fastest time on SS5.
Dani Sordo was second and acknowledged that Loeb might be too difficult to catch. "He's going very fast so I'm pushing hard, but it's not possible to take the lead from him," said Dani. "On one hand I want to beat him, but I have to remember there are other drivers here and it's important to stay ahead of them too."
Ford's Mikko Hirvonen was best of the rest once again, but got closer to the pace of the Citroens than he had on any of the previous stages. The Finn matched Sordo's split times through most of the stage and completed the section less than a second slower. "It's okay, not bad, now we have to keep our heads up and concentrate on the next stage," he said.
The Subarus of Solberg and Atkinson were fourth and fifth fastest. Both drivers reporting that they were doing all they could with their cars in the conditions. "It's still good, I can't complain," said Atkinson. "It's very tricky. Even though there's no rain there's a sort of damp, slime on the road which makes it extremely slippery."
Toni Gardemeister was the only driver to have serious mechanical problems on the morning loop. A lack of engine power, possibly due to a faulty turbo boost sensor, slowed him on all three tests and he stopped the clock on SS5 almost 40 seconds slower than Loeb. "I did all I could in there," said Gardemeister. "I was pushing the throttle pedal so hard all the time that I have cramp in my right leg!"
After the stage crews headed back to Valence and a 20-minute service before the afternoon's repeat loop.