Sebastien Loeb has taken a surprise lead in the Rally Catalunya despite running first on mainly gravel stages this morning.
With day one of the new-style, mixed-surface Spanish event featuring primarily gravel roads with some asphalt sections, it was expected that Loeb would be clearing the dust off the surface for those behind and would therefore struggle. But the Citroen number one led from the outset, and said he was pushing flat-out now that the title was clinched and he could relax.
"For sure the road was cleaning but it was a little bit wet so maybe there was less cleaning," said Loeb. "And I was flat-out now there's nothing to lose. It's not the same mindset when you're playing for the championship."
Loeb is the only one of the leading drivers who has felt comfortable on the mix of surfaces this morning. Citroen Junior's Sebastien Ogier is second, but is already 11.9sec behind his future works team partner.
Ogier took second from Ford's Jari-Matti Latvala on SS3, the Finn having admitted that he lost pace on the asphalt sections after showing good pace on the gravel elements. Petter Solberg reported a similar feeling – he lost 20 seconds on the first stage alone before winning the entirely gravel SS2. He runs fourth, just ahead of Mikko Hirvonen (Ford) and Dani Sordo (Citroen).
Pos Driver Car Time/Gap
1. Sebastien Loeb Citroen 43m00.4s
2. Sebastien Ogier Citroen + 11.9s
3. Jari-Matti Latvala Ford + 13.1s
4. Petter Solberg Citroen + 23.8s
5. Mikko Hirvonen Ford + 24.5s
6. Dani Sordo Citroen + 25.2s
7. Matthew Wilson Ford + 1m23.0s
8. Ken Block Ford + 1m53.4s
9. Federico Villagra Ford + 1m54.6s
10. Frigyes Turan Ford + 2m26.6s