Rally d'Italia Sardegna
Loeb and Elena close in on victory
Sébastien Loeb and Daniel Elena have continued their faultless display and ended the second day of Rally Italy with around thirty seconds in hand over their nearest pursuers. In the second of the Citroën Total World Rally Team DS3 WRCs, Sébastien Ogier and Julien Ingrassia are currently lying third overall with second place in their sights.
The six stages making up the second day of Rally Italy were some 50 kms from Olbia, and they were the toughest challenge of the event. Sébastien Loeb and Daniel Elena, the overall leaders with a 30-second cushion, were expecting to have a hard day as they were first out on the road.
In the first loop Seb gave away around 40 seconds to Latvala who started from an ideal eighth place after his retirement the day before. In the overall classification, the 7-time world champions held on to the lead with a gap that remained almost stable over a trio consisting of Hirvonen, Solberg et Ogier.
It was a hard day’s work! I had to push like crazy from start to finish to maintain the gap.
“I pushed very hard this morning to defend my position. The gap to the second remained stable, but things closed up behind,” underlined Loeb at the midday service halt. “The overall profile of these stages is fairly similar, even if there are several changes of surface. The most difficult thing is estimating braking distances. Before a hairpin I can brake up to 200 meters from the apex. On this type of scale, it’s easy to make an error of judgment. Even if the roads have been swept for the second passage we’ll have to continue to push hard.”
“I was more at home in the car this morning and I even managed to go flat out at certain moments. My lack of knowledge prevented me from adopting a consistent rhythm,” said Ogier. “I hope to improve second time through. We’ll have to push to remain in the battle for second place with Hirvonen and Solberg.”
In the afternoon loop Loeb managed to rivalize with his direct adversaries. The time gained between the first and second passages illustrates the difficulty met by the crew opening the road. On the 73 timed kilometers the DS3 WRC was 1m 28s quicker compared to the first passage! By finishing the day with a 28.3s lead over Mikko Hirvonen, Loeb admitted he had taken a big step towards his fourth victory in Sardinia.
“It was a hard day’s work! I had to push like crazy from start to finish to maintain the gap. But it paid off as we lost ony two seconds to the second-placed driver. I think we’ve proved that we’re the quickest in this rally. We’ve done the most difficult bit, but it’s not over yet. Even if we still have to sweep 57 kms tomorrow, we’ve stacked all the odds in our favour to bag victory!”
Ogier was happy to have set the fastest time in Coiluna 2 (SS12) to put himself in a provisional third place: “Sébastien drove really well today and I don’t think anybody was capable of taking the fight to him in normal circumstances. Personally, I’m satisfied with our performance taking into account our lack of experience here. Tomorrow, I’m going to try and stay on the podium. We’re only six seconds behind Mikko, but Petter is five seconds behind us. Nothing’s set in stone and we’ll have to fight to the bitter end.”