WRC

Rally Portugal: Series leg 3 midday report

Midday update: Ogier edges closer to maiden WRC victory Sebastien Ogier has edged closer to his maiden victory in the World Rally Championship by completing Sunday's opening brace of stages 10.1 seconds in front of Citroen team leader, the ...

Midday update: Ogier edges closer to maiden WRC victory

Sebastien Ogier has edged closer to his maiden victory in the World Rally Championship by completing Sunday's opening brace of stages 10.1 seconds in front of Citroen team leader, the six-time world champion Sebastien Loeb.

Loeb was faster than Ogier on both stages this morning but conceded he is driving on the limit in order to erode his young team-mate's advantage with two gravel stages remaining before the event-closing superspecial stage, and fears he doesn't have any more pace in reserve.

"It's very difficult," said Loeb. "I am absolutely on the limit trying to catch him. I keep pushing but it's not going to be easy."

Ogier, the 2008 Junior world title-winner, admitted simply finishing the event remains his priority. "I can't go on maximum attack because the boss says I have to be at the finish," said Ogier. "For sure it's possible to win and of course I want the victory. But it's close."

Prior to the start of the final day, Citroen Junior Team chief Benoit Nogier said nobody in the French make's second squad was thinking about winning: "The most important thing for Sebastien is to finish. The victories will come in the future but, for now, he still needs to get the experience by finishing rallies."

Dani Sordo has moved back into third place after Petter Solberg picked up a steering problem in his privately-run Citroen C4 WRC. However, the Spaniard's margin over the Norwegian is a slender 2.2s with Mikko Hirvonen 6.5s behind Solberg in fifth in the lead works Ford Focus.

"We lose the whole steering rack and it's very dangerous," said Solberg. "I was trying but it's very difficult."

Although he conceded snatching the final podium spot remains a tall order, Hirvonen has vowed not to give up on his pursuit of third place. "It's not easy for sure but I'll try to get on the podium," said the Finn. "I need to fight for all the positions I can and after a tough week here a podium would mean a lot."

Matthew Wilson inherited sixth place from Henning Solberg after his Stobart M-Sport team-mate stopped on stage 15. The Norwegian had to momentarily pull over on Sunday's first stage to clear his windscreen due to a build up of dust in Focus. He retired on the next stage when the car's fan belt broke.

Wilson, meanwhile, revealed a possible steering fault but is 32.9s up on Mads Ostberg who reached the end of stage 15 with various engine warning lights flashing in his Subaru Impreza.

Kimi Raikkonen remains on course for a points-scoring finish in eighth overall. However, Federico Villagra was quicker than Raikkonen through stage 15 and is now 12.2s behind the ex-Formula One world champion after moving ahead of Khalid Al Qassimi. The Abu Dhabi driver climbed in front of the Argentine on stage 14 but slipped back on the next stage after reporting a build up of dust in his car. Al Qassimi is now 3.2s behind Villagra.

Jari Ketomaa still tops the Super 2000 World Rally Championship but has reported a small exhaust problem. Renault Clio driver Kevin Abbring began SS15 in the lead of the Junior championship class.

-source: wrc

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