Ford teammates continue to hold down 1-2 at the end of day two of the always challenging rally in Wales. This year’s FIA World Rally Championship in Great Britain was moved up on the calendar, and it definitely did not make life easier. In fact a surprise rain on Thursday night caused the gravel roads to be very slippery. The same trio who held the top three spots yesterday ended today in the same order: Jari-Matti Latvala, Petter Solberg, and Sebastien Loeb.
The main difference was Latvala extended his edge over his Ford Fiesta RS teammate Solberg. However Citroen’s ace closed up the gap to the Norwegian after the seven special stages today. Sitting fourth is Adapta’s Mads Østberg in a prepared M-Sport Ford.
Latvala did not come out of the gate flying and nearly made a costly error as he explained, “It was slippery but those conditions have always suited this car. The first 1.5km of the opening stage were very wet under the trees. Cars cutting across the grass made the surface muddy and twice I was almost off the road before my co-driver [Miikka Anttila] told me to calm down.” The Finn ended the morning by winning the Halfway 1 stage.
The day started with patches of fog drifting through the Brecon Beacons Mountain in South Wales. The morning stages had limited visibility at times in the forest area but in the higher elevation, the sun was shining. Of course in some areas, the roads were slippery due to the moisture in the air. In the afternoon the teams had a dryer route as they contested Crychan, Epynt, and Halfway stages; the same as the morning stages but in reverse. They ended the second day on asphalt for the short Celtic Manor (golf course) stage which Latvala won smiling as he said, “It was the best super special stage that I’ve driven. Winning was like getting a hole-in-one! “
Latvala and Miikka Anttila hold the lead with a margin of 24.5 seconds to their Ford teammates, Solberg and Chris Patterson. The Finn was fastest on three of the stages today, while the Norwegian landed the top time on two of them.
“I had another superb day but I can’t afford to relax. If the weather turns bad tomorrow then the roads will be slippery and a 25 second lead can disappear easily in such conditions. I’ve always enjoyed this rally and perhaps it’s the event where the set-up of the car and my driving come together best,” said Latvala.
Solberg did not have a good morning as he struggled with his Fiesta’s setup. The team made changes at the service break and he opened the afternoon by winning the stage; however his lead over Loeb is 6.4 seconds.
“The changes made a big difference and I won two stages. I worked hard today to keep my rivals behind and I must do the same tomorrow. First and second would be so important for Ford and both Jari-Matti and I must ensure we maintain these positions to the finish,” said Solberg. Loeb has seven more titles than Solberg but they are both push to the limits. The two champions will be the ones to watch tomorrow. Yet in this rally thus far, Solberg is 4 to 1 in stage wins!
Loeb said, “I managed my tyres as efficiently as possible during the afternoon. I lost two or three seconds on the second loop, but I'm still in the running for second place. As I often say when I have a bit of a lead on the Saturday evening, the rally isn’t finished yet! And even if I finish third, that wouldn’t be a bad result in terms of the World Championships…”
The final day of Wales Rally Great Britain will be shorter and based near Cardiff. The real contest will be between Solberg and Loeb as they fight for second. Unless someone makes a major error or has a mechanical failure, the final results will have few changes. The drivers will shoot for the bonus points in the Power Stage.