Midday update: Ogier leads, but it's a Loeb masterclass Overnight leader Petter Solberg's hopes that the road surface would be similar to yesterday were dashed on the first corner this morning - that's how long it took for the Norwegian to...
Midday update: Ogier leads, but it's a Loeb masterclass
Overnight leader Petter Solberg's hopes that the road surface would be similar to yesterday were dashed on the first corner this morning - that's how long it took for the Norwegian to realise he was in for a tough three stages. Two cars further back, Sebastien Ogier made his move and leapfrogged his way to the front of the field.
Ogier was second only to Sebastien Loeb on the first two stages of the morning. Third quickest for the Citroen Junior Team driver on the Te Akau Coast was enough for him to arrive at the Hamilton Downs Super Special with a 12.6-second advantage at the top of the timesheets. Ford's Jari-Matti Latvala was second, with Dani Sordo third.
The one thing which united the three drivers, however, was their admiration for what Loeb achieved this morning. "It was unbelievable time from Loeb," said the leader, referring to the 22 seconds the six-time champion lifted out of everybody in the 30-kilometre SS12. "It looks like he can do what he likes. For me, I try to keep the driving neat and tidy - no mistakes."
Loeb's efforts moved him up to sixth place. He said: "I was pushing hard, I thought the long stage was somewhere I could make a difference, so I tried. I made no big mistakes. It was okay. I was really on the limit in some places, but no more than I had been yesterday when I was trying to limit how much time I was losing."
Loeb will begin the afternoon loop just 0.7 seconds behind Mikko Hirvonen. The Finn's hopes of making the most of his fifth place on the road went awry when he spun seven kilometres into the morning's opener. He clouted a bank and damaged the left-rear tyre on the Ford.
"Whenever I try to go flat out, there's something happening," said Hirvonen. "It's been tough again. I ran wide, so I guess you can say I was too fast into the corner." Hirvonen's first target this afternoon will be fourth-placed Dani Sordo.
Jari Ketomaa has increased his lead in the Super 2000 World Rally Championship category over Xevi Pons to 31 seconds by Hampton Downs although the Finn wasn't entirely happy with his morning's work. "It was not perfect this morning, especially in the slow sections where we had some understeer," he said.
Despite the gap to Ketomaa widening, Pons said he was confident his bid for a third successive SWRC win was not over. "I will be more confident for the afternoon stages so the gap is not so bad," said the Spaniard.
Nasser Al-Attiyah's bid to overhaul Martin Prokop for third suffered a blow when the Qatari overshot a junction on Te Akau Coast and lost 30 seconds rejoining the road. He remains fourth with Patrik Sandell fifth in a similar Skoda Fabia.
Kiwi Hayden Paddon continues to edge closer to Production Car World Rally Championship glory in his Mitsubishi Lancer Evo IX. Prior to the Hampton Downs Super Special, Paddon's advantage over Emma Gilmour in second stood at 3m10s. Kingsley Thompson is third.
-source: wrc.com foxch: not found