A cautious start for the C4 WRC runners
Heavy rain made tyre choices a decisive factor in the times posted on this morning’s three stages to the east of Sligo. The Citroën Total World Rally Team’s Sébastien Loeb and Daniel Elena are provisionally second overall, 6.7 seconds behind the leaders, while Dani Sordo and Marc Marti follow in fourth place. The best placed Citroën Junior Team representatives are Conrad Rautenbach and Daniel Barritt who are sixth.

The first crew pulled out of this morning’s service park at 7.25am en route for the first of the morning’s special stages. Of the five Citroën C4 WRCs at the start, only the car of Conrad Rautenbach and Daniel Barritt was equipped with Pirelli Sottozero tyres, while the four others were running on the Pirelli PZero.

Sébastien Loeb and Daniel Elena took the opening test cautiously, before upping their pace to claim two consecutive fastest times, although the five-time World Champion returned to Sligo somewhat dubitative about the different tyre options: "There was so much water on the stages that we were aquaplaning all the time, so I didn’t want to take any undue risks. It is a surprise to see that the snow tyres were more competitive than the rain tyres on asphalt."

"It’s really quite weird," echoed Dani Sordo. "I don’t think I was able to accelerate with my foot to the floor once! There were enormous puddles all over the place. Choosing the ideal tyre for the second loop this afternoon promises to be difficult because there are places were the snow tyre seems to have the edge, and others where the rain tyre appears to be the best solution."

Conrad Rautenbach chose the Pirelli Sottozero, which is primarily designed for snowy conditions, and he believes he got the call right: "I am pleased with my choice. We were possibly a little too cautious, but some of the other drivers have been having problems, whereas we are still in the fight. I think I’ll continue to drive the same way this afternoon."

Chris Atkinson’s debut for his new team was marked by particularly wet conditions: "That was very tough. There’s an enormous amount of water out there on the stages which were very narrow. And there were puddles everywhere. These are hardly ideal conditions in which to familiarise yourself with a new car, yet it was important to find my marks." The Australian driver contested SS2 and SS3 with a broken windscreen after his bonnet flew open on a road section.

The niceties of the Rally Ireland are new for Sébastien Ogier, too: "In addition to making a poor tyre choice, I had too much understeer following the adjustments I made to the set-up during yesterday’s shakedown and we are running 11th on the road, so it turned out to be quite a difficult morning. The main thing, though, is that we are still in the running and we intend to carry on learning as much as we can…"

Following the 30-minute service halt in Sligo, competitors headed out for a second attempt at the same three stages. The fourth stage (Glenboy 2) starts at 1.02pm.

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