Midday wrap: Loeb heads close fight in Wales As the crews headed into remote service in Builth Wells, Sebastien Loeb led the rally from Petter Solberg by just 2.5 seconds, after the seven-time World Champion lost time with couple of ...
Midday wrap: Loeb heads close fight in Wales
As the crews headed into remote service in Builth Wells, Sebastien Loeb led the rally from Petter Solberg by just 2.5 seconds, after the seven-time World Champion lost time with couple of spins.
Solberg hit the front after the opening stage of the day but lost his slim advantage on the subsequent asphalt sections. However, the Norwegian closed back up on the final stage before service.
"I'm trying too hard," said Loeb, who was visibly coming under pressure. "We went straight on at a junction and had a spin: it's not easy."
Solberg blamed the asphalt sections of stage this morning for his earlier time loss, but he was upbeat about his prospects. "I try to keep a good feeling," commented the Norwegian. "But on the tarmac we have no chance at all; we're losing time on every corner because of the mud in the road. For now, we just keep on pushing."
The first stage was characterised by drama for Sebastien Ogier, when the Frenchman crashed out of the rally. This was his second consecutive mistake on a World Championship rally and Ogier was understandably disappointed, particularly as he could now lose the runner-up spot in the final driver rankings. "We rolled once and then went off," he said. [Read more in our separate story]
Ogier's exit promoted Mikko Hirvonen to third, but the Finn remained dissatisfied with his performance. "My driving was inconsistent," he said. "Sometimes everything seemed to go really well but then at other times I was just too cautious, especially on the Epynt asphalt in Four Ways Crychan. Having said that, everything was better than yesterday. Radnor was coated in deep mud but the other stages were okay. In Halfway I had to slow as there were some sheep running on the road."
After his puncture yesterday, Hirvonen's team mate Jari-Matti Latvala was trying to make up time, but he was probably trying a bit too much. "I went off the road a couple of times this morning," said Latvala. "I think I've maybe been pushing a bit too hard. The tarmac was getting muddy in a few places but it's not easy to be in this position. To have the proper feeling I would need to be closer to Loeb."
Nonetheless, Latvala was able to take fourth place from Dani Sordo after the Citroen driver overshot a junction. Latvala will now face a straight duel with Petter for this year's drivers' championship runners-up place. "Ogier's accident changes the situation," he said. "But I can't think about championship positions right now because everything is too tight to call."
Henning Solberg is sixth while Matthew Wilson is up to seventh, having had a big moment on the opening stage of the day.
Norwegian privateer Mads Ostberg is eighth in front of the 2007 Formula One World Champion Kimi Raikkonen, who made solid progress throughout the morning's four stages. "I took it quite easily," reported the 18-time Grand Prix winner. "As has been the case on every stage so far, there were some slippery places - but I'm quite happy with all the pace notes."
Ken Block rounded out the top 10, commenting that he thought the stages would get "pretty ugly" when they are re-run this afternoon.
Xevi Pons continues to stay on track for the Super 2000 World Rally Championship title while Pirelli Star Driver Ott Tanak lead of the Production Car World Championship classification. Nonetheless, Armindo Araujo is still destined for his second consecutive title in the category.