Loeb/Elena unstoppable in the Welsh forests
Starting the day with a slender five-second advantage, Sebastien Loeb and Daniel Elena handled Day 2 of the 2009 Rally GB with aplomb. They set four fastest stage times in six stages, and took their Citroen C4 WRC to a lead of over half a minute. The five-time World Champions seem to be ideally placed to claim a sixth consecutive title tomorrow. Dani Sordo and Marc Marti also performed strongly in the Welsh forests, recovering third place in the overall standings.
Although the teams enjoyed relatively good conditions on Friday, the weather worsened overnight. They left Cardiff in the small hours under heavy rain. After the first stage, Rhondda 1 (SS7), Sebastien Loeb had lost 2.4 seconds to his rival Mikko Hirvonen, who was just 2.9 seconds off the lead. "I had two or three aquaplaning moments in the opening kilometres and lost a bit of confidence. I was also slowed down by a branch that got stuck between the windscreen and the wiper," explained the Citroen driver.
Spurred into action, Seb decided to make an impression in Crychan 1 (SS8). Over 14.99km of very fast roads, the Frenchman took ten seconds out of his rival in one go. "It was on the edge but we made it!" said Daniel Elena calmly. Sensing that his rival was flagging, Seb continued in the same fashion on Halfway 1 (SS9/18.37 km). Fastest by 12 seconds, the number one Citroen C4 WRC pairing stretched their lead to 25 seconds by the time they reached the midday service park in Cardiff.
"Those two stages really suited my driving style," explained Sebastien. "The stage surface was hard and there was a lot of grip. I said to myself that I couldn't afford to let Mikko close any more, and I pushed as hard as possible. I felt that I could make a real difference at that point. But I can't rest on my laurels: we need to continue pushing and taking risks."
In the afternoon, Hirvonen was once again very quick in Rhondda. But Seb responded on Crychan and Halfway, and finished the second day of the rally with a 30-second lead. "This situation suits me perfectly, but I still can't afford to ease up. Tomorrow, we'll be doing four long stages without any service parks. Anything can still happen on such a tough rally."
Having started fourth this morning, Dani Sordo moved ahead of Petter Solberg on SS7. After setting second-fastest times on Crychan 1 and Halfway 1, the Spaniard used the morning to build a gap to the Norwegian. "There was rain, fog, wind and mud, but I had a lot of fun," confirmed Dani. "We now have a small advantage, but I know Petter will be wanting to fight back. We need to carry on pushing."
During the afternoon, Dani lost several seconds to his rival, but he still held a 24-second lead at the end of the day: "It was really difficult, there were a lot of potholes and big puddles. I decided to be cautious at certain points, even if that cost me a bit of time. I hope I can maintain this third place tomorrow."