Sebastien Loeb: First day of the Catalunya Rally is crucial image

The Frenchman Sebastien Loeb says tomorrow’s opening day of the Rally of Spain will have a big impact on his hopes of winning the eight consecutive title this year.

The Spanish round became a mixed event with the first day on gravel followed by two days on tarmac reviving a type of rally that had disappeared from the championship.

However, this context will not help Leob who would prefer rain to help bind the dirt together.

“It’s going to be another day of sweeping tomorrow,” said Loeb. “I don’t know what will happen. It could be that I will struggle being first on the road, cleaning it for everybody, but sometimes I have been worried about the conditions and we have managed to be in a good position at the end of the day.

“We will see, but certainly tomorrow will have a big impact on the outcome of the rally. It’s not going to be an easy day, for sure.”

The use of asphalt and gravel stages on the same event not only increases the challenge facing the crews due to the different driving style requirements, it also adds to the workload placed on the mechanics and engineers, who have to convert their cars from gravel to asphalt specification in a restrictedtime-frame.

The Seven-time World Rally Champion will start the Spanish event with a fresh engine after the France event. Citroen made a mistake when building Sebastien Loeb’s engine for the Rallye de France, which ultimately led to his retirement.

“I think we did a mistake when building the engine. It didn’t happen in more than 10 years but it happened this time and it was Rallye de France in Sebastien Loeb’s car. We are very sorry but this is rallying” team principal Olivier Quesnel said.

“We think it was the oil pump that failed, so there was nothing we could do. Obviously this opens up the championship again.”