Citroën Racing on top in Finnish sprint
Sébastien Loeb and Daniel Elena are still in front in Rally Finland after a hotly-disputed second leg. They lead their team-mates Sébastien Ogier and Julien Ingrassia by 1.6s! The very long final day promises an epic batle between the two Citroën Total World Rally Team drivers and Finn Jari- Matti Latvala, as they all have only a single aim – victory in one of the most prestigious rallies in the FIA World Rally Championship.
It was no surprise to see that the sprint, which began on Thursday, continued throughout today’s long leg. The crews covered 671,72 kilometers in almost 14 hours between Jyväskylä and Lahti, 134,60 of which made up the timed stages.
Sébastien Loeb and Daniel Elena, who started this morning with a lead of 2.8s over Sébastien Ogier and Julien Ingrassia, had to open the road on the day’s eight stages. The seven-time world champions found conditions to their liking in the damp portions, especially in Evo (SS5), and this helped them fend off their rivals. But they had to clean the trajectory as soon as the roads grew drier. “It wasn’t quite as big a handicap as in other events, but obviously you lose time,” explained Loeb. “This was proved by Mikko Hirvonen’s performance. He started far back, and thanks to better road conditions he set a string of fastest times.”
Sébastien Ogier matched his team-mate’s pace all day long and took the lead in Hyväneula 2 (SS9), which he covered at an average speed of 129 km/h!
Like the end of the first day the last stage gave the leaders a chance to reshuffle the cards. Loeb received a 10-second penalty for checking in a minute late on purpose at the start of Mynnilä (SS11). Ogier, who started behind him, decided to drop 13.4s to finish second 1.5s behind his team-mate. In third came Jari- Matti Latvala, 2.6s further back.
“We tried to do something to sow doubt in our rivals’ minds,” summed up Loeb. “It didn’t work, but it hasn’t really made our task a lot more difficult. We’ve still got a long leg to do. Since the start we’ve managed to match the pace of our rivals even though we’re first out on the road. I just hope that I won’t have to do even more sweeping tomorrow on the very dry stages.”
“Everything’s still up for grabs,” underlined Ogier in turn. “Since yesterday, the positions at the start haven’t had a big influence on the performances. Nobody’s managed to make the break. Tomorrow, I think we’re going to meet more difficult conditions. We’ll have to push like crazy. Everybody knows these stages. It’s going to be a ding-dong battle, and in my opinion Jari-Matti Latvala is in the best position.”
The last leg of Rally Finland will start tomorrow morning at 7h00 with 11 stages (140,05 timed kilometers) on the day’s programme. The two Citroën drivers will be out to inflict a sixth defeat on the Finns in 38 Finnish rallies counting for the World Rally Championship.