The C4 WRCs play pachinko!
The second day of Rally Japan, which proved as indecisive as the first, enabled the Citroen Total World Rally Team crews to consolidate their positions. Sebastien Ogier and Julien Ingrassia are lying third only 5.4s behind Petter Solberg. Sebastien Loeb and Daniel Elena have made up some of the ground they lost on the first leg, and the 6-time world champions are sixth, 37.9s behind the leader .
Pachinko is a Japanese game that is a kind of cross between a flipper and a one-armed bandit, and it is extremely popular in the Land of the Rising Sun. Thought, skill and a bit of luck are necessary to win a lot of money. The same ingredients are required to win Rally Japan whose outcome still remains uncertain after two days of no-holds-barred battles on the forest roads of the island of Hokkaido.
Sebastien Loeb was a bit perplexed after the first day in which he was unable to make the most out of the stages, and he started day 2 with the second-quickest time in Nikara 1 (SS11). The world championship leader confirmed his return to form in the next two stages: "Compared to yesterday we're not handicapped by being first out on the road. We're now back among the quickest, but the others are pushing like crazy as they don't have much to lose. I'm not holding back. In fact, I'm pushing really hard but that doesn't seem enough to close the big gaps. I'm going to keep trying and we've already pulled back around twenty seconds on the leader," was how he analyzed things at midday.
Sebastien Ogier was just a littte slower than his team-mate in the first three stages, but pulled off a master stroke by taking second place 1.6s behind Latvala, the new leader: "Sweeping again played a role this morning. Unlike yesterday, it turned to our advantage, and we've closed the gap. We drove quickly but without taking too many risks. We're going to continue like that this afternoon. Ideally, we have to finish the day in second or third place, a few seconds behind the leader. Our aim is to be first in the final stage of the rally."
Like an experienced pachinko player, Ogier used his strategy to perfection during the afternoon. He found the right rhythm at the right moment to go into third place 5.4s behind Solberg who was back in front. "The situation's quite simply ideal," smiled the no.2 C4 WRC driver. "The third day is much shorter and there'll only be around twenty kilometres of specials to sweep. The gaps are small enough for us to have every chance of winning. The rally's outcome could even be decided in the final super special! But we're not there yet and I have to say that I'm very happy with the way today's unfolded. Our C4 was perfect and we made no mistakes."
Loeb was sixth at the start of the day and sixth at the finish, and he had difficulty hiding his disappointment despite setting some good times among the leaders. "It's really not my rally! This afternoon we lost around ten seconds in the long stage. We had some kind of impact in the steering and that affected the way the front differential worked. That doesn't have any influence on the way the rally's panning out and now I'm concentrating on bagging points."