At the end of a breathtaking battle for supremacy, Sebastien Loeb and Daniel Elena returned to parc ferme in Leon tonight leading the Rally Mexico. The reigning World Champions have a 37.7s advantage, which they will aim to protect tomorrow. Dani...
At the end of a breathtaking battle for supremacy, Sebastien Loeb and Daniel Elena returned to parc ferme in Leon tonight leading the Rally Mexico. The reigning World Champions have a 37.7s advantage, which they will aim to protect tomorrow. Dani Sordo and Marc Marti, who put in a masterful performance all day, are in an excellent fourth place overall.
When the rally got underway this morning Seb and Daniel had not quite yet managed to make up all the time they lost on Friday morning through sweeping the road clean, as a result of running second on the road. Having started the day with a 9.5 second gap to the leaders they found it difficult to imagine that they would make up the deficit in just one stage. Nonetheless, by the end of the 25.23 kilometres of " El Zauco " (SS8) they were in the lead...by less than a second ! This led them to believe that the rest of the day would be far from easy...and their suspicions were soon confirmed.
On the following stage, the very sandy " Duarte ", Petter Solberg took control again -- but by the scant margin of 3.5 seconds. To get an idea of how tight their battle was, it took Seb three stages, or more than 70 kilometres of flat-out driving to regain the lead -- by 4.8 seconds ! On " Derramadero 2 " (SS13) the advantage swung back towards Solberg, as Seb had to brake hard from sixth gear to avoid a group of animals in the road at the start of the stage, losing five seconds. But then Solberg's luck deserted him, as the Norwegian hit a rock at high speed and damaged his power steering.
" It's been the sort of day that I really enjoy, with a full-on battle " grinned Seb back at service in the evening. " We've been pushing at the limits of what's reasonable, particularly on the second run through 'Duarte '. We knew that this stage favoured Petter, so to lose the least time possible we went flat out -- and won the stage ! Tomorrow we have 60 kilometres of special stage left. We will try to keep up a good rhythm and above all to avoid making mistakes. Such a hard-fought advantage deserves to be protected ! "
Compared to the men in front, Dani Sordo experienced a less intense day's action, but nonetheless it was memorable. Looking at the time sheets, and analysing the gap in seconds per kilometre to the established frontrunners, it was difficult to believe that the 22 year-old reigning Junior World Champion was competing on his first gravel event with a World Rally Car. Dani remained calm and consistent, getting to know the stages at a rhythm that allowed him to steer clear of trouble. With increased confidence, he upped his pace during the second loop of stages -- much to the delight of Marc Van Dalen, Kronos Racing's team principal. " Seb's determination is fantastic, while Dani has been driving a perfect learning rally, " commented Marc.. " The team is going to do its best to ensure that they both reap the benefits of their excellent work... "