Two Citroen C4 WRCs still in front
Today’s weather has turned out to be just as bad as that which marked the opening day of competition, with heavy rain continuing to fall over the north of Ireland. Following the cancellation of yesterday evening’s two stages, this morning saw competitors get their first taste of action in Ulster. The two Citroën Total World Rally Team cars still provisionally monopolise the top two positions, with Sébastien Loeb and Daniel Elena leading ahead of Dani Sordo and Marc Marti. Chris Atkinson and Stéphane Prévot profited from a strong run on the opening loop of Leg 2 to move into fifth place with their Citroën Junior Team C4 WRC.

Following a rapid visit to the service park in Sligo this morning at 6.25am, crews faced an 85-kilometre road section out to the start of today’s first stage (SS9, Sloughan Glen 1). All five Citroën C4 WRCs were equipped with Pirelli Sottozero tyres.

Five-time World Champions Sébastien Loeb and Daniel Elena continued on their momentum of the previous day to claim the fastest time on all three of this morning’s stages: "There was a great of water about again and the conditions are pretty much the same as yesterday. We’re aquaplaning all the time and it’s very delicate out there. The rain is tending to wash the roads clean, though, so it will probably be less greasy next time round. We will still need to tread very, very carefully, however."

Dani Sordo and Marc Marti collected three second quickest times this morning to consolidate their hold on second place, 1m 12.2s behind their team-mates: "That was incredibly difficult, especially the first stage which was run before it got light. The roads are so flooded that they’re more like rivers. We have less pressure on our shoulders now that Mikko [Hirvonen] has fallen back. Our position is more comfortable, but the conditions are just awesome. It just hasn’t stopped raining!"

Chris Atkinson and Stéphane Prévot have started to find their marks with the Citroën C4 WRC and have moved up to fifth place thanks to a fourth quickest and two third quickest times: "We posted some decent times this morning and I hope it carries on that way. The more I drive this car, the closer I am able to get to its limits. The conditions are still extremely difficult but we’re making progress. I’m really pleased with how everything’s going."

Sébastien Ogier and Julien Ingrassia profited from the morning to gain more experience. With the exception of a small mistake which cost them two minutes on the day’s first test, the Junior World Champion showed that he is on the pace: "I made a mistake under braking. My car came to a stop against some barbed wire and it took us a little time to get going again. I took things a bit more cautiously on the two other stages and we are doing our best to stay out of trouble. There’s too big a gap to warrant pushing any harder, but my aim is pass ahead of Matthew Wilson."

Despite their strong start to the rally, Conrad Rautenbach and Daniel Barritt were caught out on today’s first stage. The Citroën Junior Team crew was unable to get its Citroën C4 WRC back on the road and was forced to call it a day.

After the 30-minute lunchtime service halt, crews return for a second attempt at the same three stages this afternoon. Sloughan Glen 2 (SS12) starts at 1.57pm.

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