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GP Week : Issue 24
Tyres and Times THE 23km Grafschaft Veldenz stage on Rallye Deutschland became a critical battle field on the Friday between Sebastien Loeb and Mikko Hirvonen. Last year, Loeb set a record time for the stage of 13:12.4s, but with the new Pirelli control tyres he was almost able to match that time this year on the first time through the stage. He covered the stage in 13:14.4s, only two seconds slower. Hirvonen, however, was over six seconds slower, still feeling his way in the early morning. On the second time through, though, Loeb broke the record by 0.1s (13:12.3s), and Hirvonen equalled the old record at 13:12.4s. This emphasized not only just how much Hirvonen had a miserable start to the rally, ending the first loop of stages over a quarter minute behind (If only the rally had started at lunchtime on Friday). It also showed that Citroen’s and Ford’s development is overcoming all the built-in performance deficit of the control tyres. And it also showed how critical even tenths of seconds are, further evidenced during the Friday afternoon. Loeb’s leading margin was 17.7s after SS4, 18.8s after SS5 and 19.9s after SS6. And in case you thought there was something familiar about 1.1s, that was exactly the gap between the best two-wheel drive car, Martin Prokop’s Citroen C2 S1600, and second best, non- championship Renault Clio S1600 entry of Kris Meeke. 40