Dani Sordo in the fight for victory
Dani Sordo and Diego Vallejo enjoyed an excellent second day over the Hokkaido stages in Japan. Thanks to two fastest stage times, the Citroen Junior Team's Spanish crew got closer to the lead.
They will start the final sprint tomorrow just 15 seconds from the leader. Increasing their pace from the first day, Kimi Raikkonen and Kaj Lindstrom gained two places to climb to eighth overall.
Dani Sordo and Kimi Raikkonen checked out of parc ferme this morning occupying fifth and 10th places respectively. On the first stage of the day, Dani Sordo showed himself to be instantly comfortable with a second-fastest time. He continued his progress by setting third-fastest time on the 33.76-kilometre Kamuycep 1 stage (SS12) and then he went fastest of all on Kina 1 (SS13). In just one loop of stages, Dani had gained 22.3 seconds to close to within less than 15 seconds of the leader. "The car feels very competitive this morning," commented Dani. "The engineers have done a really good job to make our Citroen C4 WRC suit the conditions. We're in the thick of the frontrunners, and it's great fun to be fighting at the top of the timesheets!"
Kimi Raikkonen benefited from Matthew Wilson's retirement in the morning to make up a place in the overall classification. Then the Finn grew in confidence to overhaul Federico Villagra. By the end of SS12, he was up to eighth. "I've had a good feeling with the car since yesterday's lunchtime service, so we're not making any more adjustments to the set-up," said Kimi. "Now our aim is to keep on going like this. We have to keep trying to improve our times all the way to the end."
In the afternoon, Dani Sordo was able to stay with the pace of the leaders. The Spaniard had planned to change the set-up of his car in order to optimise its performance on stages that now featured deep ruts after the first passage in the morning. With the help of his engineers, Sordo managed to find settings that allowed him to post another fastest stage time on the 33-kilometre Kamuycep 2 test. He added a third fastest time to his collection on Kina 2.
Heading into the final day, Dani Sordo now occupies a promising fourth place, just 15 seconds off the rally leader. "I think I lost a bit too much time on the first stage this afternoon," said Dani. "As for everything else, the rest of the day went extremely well. We made a lot of progress and we're in a good position for tomorrow now. The only thing we can do is push!"
Kimi Raikkonen reinforced his position by putting together a string of eighth-fastest stage times, keeping consistently with 1.8 seconds per kilometre of the leader. "As always, the second run through the stages was easier for me," he concluded. "Experience counts for a lot on these roads. I'm very pleased with my driving. Now we need to continue like this!"
Team Manager Benoit Nogier concluded: "Dani is in a very good position. It's a big pleasure for us to see him so close to the leader, having set a fastest time on the longest stage of the rally. He definitely showed impressive consistency. We're in the midst of a very exciting rally now, with five or six drivers swapping mere seconds on the stages, including Dani. Now we're hoping that he drives as quickly as possible again tomorrow. We need to make sure that we have nothing to regret by the afternoon. Kimi has driven one of his best days on gravel of the entire season. That's another source of big satisfaction for us. The target is to continue like this, with the same consistent performance from both our drivers and our C4 WRCs!"