After a tough day for 59-time world rally winner Sebastien Loeb, Citroen team manager Sven Smeets discusses the six-time champion's position.
Q. What do you think of Sebastien Loeb's performance today?
Sven Smeets: One of the reasons Sebastien is behind is that he was opening the road. For him, we have had rallies where he was even farther from the lead after the first day. This morning there was not a good rhythm in the first stage and he lost more time than the others, if you take that away then I think he would have been 35 or 40 seconds behind. That's where he should be after the first leg, that's what we had in our minds. This is not the Rally Japan we had two years ago in the rain.
Q. Have you been surprised by the way the road has cleaned?
SS: The problem is there have been sections of the stages where it cleans more than we thought and then places where's it's less. It's been a little irregular. We were sure it was going to clean, so we knew Sebastien would not be in the lead tonight. And maybe [the gap] is a little bit too much.
Q. Maybe it's not in his best interests to push for the win thinking about the championship...
SS: Sebastien never starts the rally thinking of the podium or to be fourth or fifth. But, of course, there's no reason to go off on the first stage. Maybe he was thinking of that on the first stage this morning. But he's always starting to win.
Q. Is it possible to see the same sort of performance tomorrow as we saw on Saturday in New Zealand, where he was fastest on all of the stages?
SS: The problem is that we have no idea how much it will be clean tomorrow. But for sure he will be in a very good position. I'm not sure if he will push so quickly to come back like he did in New Zealand, but he will push to reduce the gap as much as he can to Petter.
Q. And a good day for Sebastien Ogier?
SS: Yes. He has never driven here. Everything was new. He did a fantastic opening stage this morning. Tomorrow he has a good road position, so let's see where he can bring himself on Sunday night.
Q. Who's your money on to be in the lead on Sunday afternoon?
SS: Tomorrow I think we're going to have a similar situation to New Zealand on the final day. This rally will have more things happening. Apart from [Khalid] Al Qassimi's accident, nothing has been happening today, so I wouldn't be surprised to see a lot happening tomorrow. I think to put money on somebody, I would wait until Saturday night.
Q. Maybe Petter Solberg, though?
SS: He did a fantastic job today, but tomorrow it will be him opening the road and we will see what the disadvantage is. The rest will go into Sunday; everybody will be re-grouped tomorrow and we will see a lot happening.