Loeb and Ogier neck and neck!
After a long and difficult day, Sébastien Loeb / Daniel Elena and Sébastien Ogier / Julien Ingrassia are in the lead of the Acropolis Rally after closing the gap that separated them from Petter Solberg / Chris Patterson on the opening day of the rally. The Citroën Total World Rally Team crews are separated by only 2.2s, which promises another final day full of suspense during the third and last leg of the Greek round of the FIA World Rally Championship!
The second leg of the Acropolis Rally was the same distance as the previous day and began midmorning. After a quick stop in the Loutraki service park, the crews tackled a series of three long stages in the Peloponnese.
Sébastien Ogier was fourth overall at the end of the first day, and the Frenchman took advantage of his favourable starting position on the road to put on a stunning performance. In the first stage of the day, he overtook Mikko Hirvonen and his team-mate Sébastien Loeb, and the Citroën Total World Rally Team driver ate into the gap separating him from the leader, Petter Solberg. When he came back to the service park he was only 5.4s behind the Norwegian. “I already drove these stages in 2009 and I liked them much more than yesterday’s ones,” he explained. “I felt more confident and I was able to push a lot harder. I thought that it would be much more difficult to close the gap to Petter, but we pulled back a second per kilometer. We’re back in the running for victory.”
Loeb too was still in the hunt for victory, as he was in third place 15 seconds behind: “The way we’ve closed the gap to Petter shows just how penalizing cleaning can be for the driver first out on the road. I know what I’m talking about, and I too had to cope with this handicap in certain portions.”
After a 30-minute halt the crews went through the stages a second time. In stifling heat of around 40°, men and machines were put to a severe test. In SS10, Ogier took the lead from Solberg, and Loeb overtook the Norwegian in the next stage. The two Citroën Total World Rally Team DS3 WRCs rejoined the service park in the first two places separated by 15.4s.
“The day’s not over yet as we still have a stage left to do - at night, what’s more!” said Ogier. “It’s not something we’re used to, and I don’t really know what to expect. I’m going to try and increase my lead over Seb. I reckon I need around twenty seconds to be able to tackle the third day in a confident frame of mind.”
Loeb set the quickest time in Nea Politia while Ogier was quickly enveloped in a cloud of dust. “Despite a problem with the split times system in Ogier’s car, we realized that he wouldn’t have the lead he wanted at the end of this stage,” explained Olivier Quesnel, the Citroên Racing Team Principal. “We gave him a target time to slot in just behind Loeb who decided to push to the maximum.”
The Citroën Total World Rally Team drivers, separated by 2.2s, will battle for victory in the third and final leg as will Petter Solberg and Mikko Hirvonen who are only some twenty seconds behind the two Frenchmen.