The Citroën Total World Rally team has monopolised the first two places on the first day of Rally Bulgaria made up of four long stages, in which Sébastien Loeb and Daniel Elena set the four quickest times.

They lead the event 28.1s in front of their team-mates Dani Sordo and Marc Marti.

After the start ceremony in Samokov, Rally Bulgaria got under way this morning. The itinerary of the first day of the event consisted of two runs through a loop of two long stages. Despite the previous day’s showers and the threatening clouds hanging over the Rila mountain range, the roads were dry overall and all the crews opted for the P-Zero hard tyres.

In the first stage, Batak Lake, Citroën put down a marker as the five C4 WRCs entered filled the first five places. Sébastien Loeb set the quickest time from Dani Sordo, Sébastien Ogier, Petter Solberg and Kimi Räikkönen.

“It was a very good stage. The car was well set up for the conditions and my notes were perfect, proof of the good job we did during reconnaissance,” underlined the six-time world champion.

Loeb-Elena repeated their performance in SS2 (Belmeken Lake), while Sordo had to make do with the fourth-fastest time. “I’m not happy with the car’s handling,” explained the Spaniard who was third at the end of the first loop. “In addition, I had to cope with a road that was dirty after the passage of the leading cars, and also some understeer. We haven’t lost too much time, but we’ll have to adjust the setup in the service park.”

After the halt in the service park on the Dolna Banya aerodrome, the cars restarted on hard tyres.

Second time through the two stages Loeb continued his faultless display with another couple of fastest times. Sordo’s C4 WRC was better set up and he only gave away a few seconds to his team-mate.

The Spaniard got back into second place, which he held till the end of the day. “After the modifications we made at midday, I found that the car was much easier to drive and more in keeping with what I’m used to. I was able to push harder. Sébastien’s setting a searing pace today and he’s already opened up a small gap. My job will probably be a bit easier tomorrow as I’m second out on the road. We’ll try and close the gap to Seb and pull away from Petter Solberg.”

Loeb, who bagged all the quickest times on the first day, was delighted with the way things had turned out: “Everything went off like a dream for us. The stages were a bit dirty first time through, but not too bad. We did just enough in the very tricky sections and we didn’t make any mistakes. The car was perfect, and we’ve managed to eke out a small gap over Dani. For the moment the scenario is ideal, but I’m still a bit cautious. It’s a new rally and we’re finding out about the stages in the race. Mistakes can always happen, or we could have a puncture, or there could be a sudden change in the weather."

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