Sebastien Loeb started the second day of the Cyprus Rally some six seconds behind Marcus Gronholm, and was falling further behind early on the second leg, but he turned the tables on the Finn to take the lead in the World Rally Championship ...
Sebastien Loeb started the second day of the Cyprus Rally some six seconds behind Marcus Gronholm, and was falling further behind early on the second leg, but he turned the tables on the Finn to take the lead in the World Rally Championship event.
"We were lucky in our tire choices, and the car has been perfect," Loeb complimented his team.
In the afternoon loop, Loeb pushed hard, and with Gronholm spinning his Ford Focus on SS14, the defending WRC champion made up 10 seconds on the stage, and snatched the lead for the first time in the event.
"I had a small spin on a slow corner, and I had to reverse the car," Gronholm explained.
He didn't look back, but drove on the limit, and eventually set fastest stage times in six of the day's eight stages in the Kronos Racing Citroen Xsara.
Gronholm could not respond to the Frenchman's torrid pace, and finished the second leg 22 seconds behind Loeb -- a dramatic change of fortunes from his overnight lead.
"I don't know why I lost so much time in the long stage this afternoon," he pondered. "I think maybe I had the wrong tyres. I had different tyres to Seb but I have never tested the rubber that he used so I don't know if they would have been better or not."
"But tyres are not the whole reason -- it must have been my driving as well," the two-time world champion admitted.
Loeb didn't dispute the impact of the tire choice -- even though both Kronos and Ford made their choices from the same BFGoodrich WRC tire lineup.
"Tires were the key," he confirmed. "We used a wider tire, which worked very well on the afternoon stages."
The duo are once again the class of the field: Mikko Hirvonen, in the second Focus WRC, is in third, but over four minutes off the pace. Meanwhile, Loeb's Kronos teammates, Xavier Pons and Daniel Sordo are sixth and tenth, eight and sixteen minutes behind Loeb.
Manfred Stohl (OMV Peugeot) is in fourth, a minute behind Hirvonen but over two minutes ahead of Toni Gardemeister, who has recovered well from the puncture and gearbox problems he suffered on Friday.
After Pons, it's Petter Solberg in the leading works Subaru Impreza, another three and a half minutes back, and being chased by his older brother Henning, a minute behind in the second OMV Peugeot.
More to follow ...