Xevi Pons at the foot of the podium...
Xevi Pons/Carlos Del Barrio finish a challenging second day on the verge of scoring their first podium in a World Rally Car, having battled through wet and muddy weather that is typical of Wales in December. The Spanish duo are fourth, with less than 25 seconds separating them from a coveted podium place. Dani Sordo/Marc Marti are in a points-scoring eighth after experiencing a transmission problem in the morning.
The action consisted of two repeated loops of three stages including some classics with Crychan and Epynt, and concluding with a run through the spectator superspecial in Cardiff's famous Millennium Stadium which usually resonates to the roar of rugby fans rather than rally cars.
Having found the total confidence over these specialised gravel stages, Xevi started the leg in an attacking frame of mind. He won the first stage (Crychan 1, 19.47 kilometres) which enabled him to move up to fifth place from sixth. His charge continued on the following stage where he finished second with a time less than one second slower than that of rally leader Marcus Gronholm. As the clouds gathered over the service park at Felindre, the Spaniard was determined to accomplish his stated mission : finishing the final rally of the year on the podium. On SS11 (Epynt 2, 13.76 kilometres) a third-fastest time was enough for Xevi to claim fourth place, putting himself on the threshold of the podium. "I had a very good feeling all day, " said Xevi. " In the afternoon it was raining really hard from the start of stage 10, but luckily my tyre choice was perfect. Unlike yesterday, I had no problems all day. I've got a lot confidence now and I am definitely going to try and catch Petter Solberg in third tomorrow. I think it's possible : this is my big chance..."
By contrast, his team mate and compatriot Dani Sordo endured a less fortunate day. Unlike Xevi, the reigning Junior World Rally Champion was tackling the Rally Great Britain for the very first time and it took him some time to adapt to the notoriously variable levels of grip. His biggest setback occurred on the second stage of the day, when he encountered a transmission problem. He had to live with it on the following stage as well, which meant that he dropped more than a minute and a half before he could get to service. " I think this is the toughest rally of the year for me, " said the 23 year-old. " The grip seems to change all the time, and the rain we had in the afternoon was as bad as I have ever seen it : just like the Rally of Turkey. I need to remember that the reason why I am here is to gain experience and not to push too hard. Everybody is reminding me of that and it is true. Tomorrow's stages are some of the most difficult of the rally, so I think it will be a big challenge right up to the end. I'm learning a lot, but it's not easy. "
-credit: kronos racing