DAY1 : January 30, 2009 - SS7 and SS8 cancelled: Loeb leads Rally Ireland after day one
Event organisers stopped Friday’s opening day of Rally Ireland early because of flooded roads - a decision which means Sebastien Loeb will carry the 44sec rally lead he held after SS6 into Saturday’s competition.
WEATHER WREAKS HAVOC - NIGHT STAGES CANCELLED
Concerns mounted during the day as incessant rain poured down on northwest Ireland. Ultimately, organisers were left with no choice and cancelled the two scheduled stages around Fardross and Murley in Co Fermanagh.
"We are especially disappointed for all the fans who were looking forward to seeing the starts of the FIA World Rally Championship on their doorstep," according to Gordon Noble, Clerk of the Course. "All we can do is look forward to better conditions tomorrow."
The stages will not be rescheduled.
Loeb leads Sordo by 44 seconds, with the BP Ford Abu Dhabi of Mikko Hirvonen in third ahead of tomorrow's six stages around Sloughan Glen in Co Tyrone and Ballinamallard and Tempo, Co Fermanagh.
Leading Irishmen are Gareth MacHale in ninth and Eamonn Boland in tenth.
The drivers expressed disappointment about the cancellation but were not surprised given the difficulties encountered earlier in the day, particularly in the morning.
"I don't have a lot of information on the reasons for cancellation but if the organisation decided to cancel these stages they must have had a good reason," Loeb said. "When we saw the conditions this morning and it wasn't cancelled ... if it was worse then I think it was the right choice."
Better news is forecast on the weather front for tomorrow. According to Met Eireann, the region will have further spells of heavy rain but these should clear in the afternoon. Winds should moderate.
CITROEN MAINTAIN 1-2 AFTER FIRST SIX STAGES
Loeb's fortunes have been transformed from the early morning stages when he said a boat would have been preferable to a car such were the atrocious driving conditions. He attributed this to a change to snow tyres, which he has mastered a lot better than his competitors.
“Yeah, it’s going okay,” he said. “I didn’t want to push earlier, we didn’t have the right tyre so we went carefully, but now we can push hard.”
Sordo finished the sixth stage four seconds behind Loeb, having put behind him the earlier problems with his brakes.
“On the last two everything was okay,” he said. “It feels really good to drive with the snow tyre. The feeling is nice. I’m confident with the car, the tyres, the notes - everything is perfect.”
Estonian Urmo Aava, the surprise leader after the first stage this morning, relinquished third place when his Ford Focus spun off the road and into a ditch full of water. Spectators helped him get the car back on the road but he had lost so much time that he decided he had had enough for one day and retired.
Mikko Hirvonen moved into third but he was left cursing his bad luck in the race to catch the Citroens.
“I’m trying to take the fight to Sordo but I stalled the engine at a junction on this one and that cost me some time. I’ll keep on moving,” he said.
Australian Chris Atkinson limped home. His Citroen took a battering, incurring left-hand front corner damage, a broken front bumper, a left-hand rear puncture and signs of a heavy bang on the co-driver’s door.
“About a couple of kilometres before the finish we aquaplaned, spun and hit a pole of the outside of the corner,” he said. “We should be able to carry on but Stephane [Prevot, co-driver] has a sore shoulder, so we’ll have to see.
AAVA LEADS AFTER MORNING STAGES
"It’s really fantastic - I almost can’t say anything - it’s a dream come true," Aava said. "We made a good choice with the winter tyre, and it looks like Mikko and Sebastien made some small mistakes, so we have an advantage. Now we have to keep on driving. I don’t know how Loeb is going so fast on the slick tyre - he must be crazy."
Ominously, his lead had been reduced from 22sec to 6.7sec by Loeb, after the Frenchman took his second stage win of the day.
After Stage 1 Loeb described conditions as "impossible" and told Rally Ireland he was "not taking any chances". Similarly, Dani Sordo was amazed at the difficulties he faced on Stage One.
"It was an incredible stage - very difficult to drive and the final part was very dangerous," he said.
Conditions appeared to improve somewhat for Loeb in Stage 2 - but he was still looking forward to getting back to base!
"It was much better but conditions were still extremely hard," he said. "On the first stage I did not want to take any chances, on the second stage we had much better grip but it is a long way to the finish."
However, Loeb managed to master these conditions better than anyone and he leads the rally.
On a typically wet, windy late January morning, the conditions proved challenging for even some of the best drivers in the world. The overwhelming consensus after this morning's first three stages was that, if anything, Rally Ireland 2009 was going to be even tougher than anticipated.
Jari-Matti Latvala got off to a flyer on the 22.25km first stage around Glenboy on the Sligo/Leitrim border but the signs were ominous for the Finn right from the start.
"It was very difficult, in some places I saw almost nothing," he told Rally Ireland after Stage One. However, worse was to come on Stage Two, when he was forced to retire from the race when he punctured his front left wheel and suffered a broken track control arm and broken drive shaft. A right rear puncture compounded the misery and there was no going on.
The second part of what will be a very long day's rallying, starts again at 13.00 hours and concentrates on the Aughnasheelan area of north Co Leitrim. Large crowds are expected later for the highly anticipated night stage of the event, which begins at 19.00 hours in the Murley district of Co Fermanagh.
Day 1 : Driver Overall Standing
|Pos.||No.||Driver/Car||Stage Time||Diff Prev||Diff Ldr|
|1||1||S. LOEB|| |
|2||2||D. SORDO|| |
|3||3||M. HIRVONEN|| |
|4||6||H. SOLBERG|| |
|5||8||C. RAUTENBACH|| |
|6||11||S. OGIER|| |
|7||7||C. ATKINSON|| |
|8||16||M. WILSON|| |
|9||18||G. MACHALE|| |
|10||17||E. BOLAND|| |
|11||5||U. AAVA|| |
|12||9||K. AL QASSIMI|| |
|13||20||A. MACHALE|| |
|14||65||A. RING|| |
|15||63||S. GALLAGHER|| |
|16||62||G. JENNINGS|| |
|17||19||T. MCNULTY|| |
|18||22||A. MACHALE|| |
|19||36||H. WEIJS|| |
|20||31||A. BURKART|| |
Hi-Light Images : 2009 WRC - Rally Ireland Day-1
[Source : 2009WRC, FORD ,CITROEN, Official Rally Ireland]