WRC

Loeb stays on top in Rally of Turkey

Loeb stays on top in Rally of Turkey

Sebastien Loeb put in another strong performance today to maintain his lead in the Rally of Turkey -- and putting him just a few stages away from a record-tying fourth consecutive World Rally Championship win, something that has only been ...

Sebastien Loeb put in another strong performance today to maintain his lead in the Rally of Turkey -- and putting him just a few stages away from a record-tying fourth consecutive World Rally Championship win, something that has only been accomplished by the 1985 champion, Timo Salonen.

S?bastien Loeb.
Photo by Citro?n Sport.
The defending champion lost some time to a charging Petter Solberg on the two loops through the Kemer and Silyon stages, with Solberg taking three of the four stage wins on those loops in his Subaru Impreza.

"'Kemer' was damp and muddy, while 'Silyon' was totally dry and dusty. I didn't drive very well in 'Kemer,' Loeb explained. "Then there was a chance it might rain (on the second loop) so we opted for a 'safe' tyre choice."

"As it turned out, we only came across rain on the road section between the two stages," Citroen's ace pilot continued. "As a result, we had re-cut our tyres too much for the conditions but that didn't have that much of an influence on our times."

Solberg's efforts gained him two places in the standings, first claiming third from Gigi Galli (Mitsubishi) and then moving ahead of Marcus Gronholm's Peugeot. Overall, he made up 14 seconds on Loeb, but that still leaves him some 1:16 behind the leading Citroen.

"Things are going the right way now and today has been completely different to yesterday when we were a long way off the pace," a relieved Solberg said at the end of the leg. "We were the fastest overall on today's stages and I think that's down to the tyres and the weather. Leg one was difficult, but today it's been warmer and, even with the same tyre compound, the package has worked much, much better."

"It'll definitely be an interesting fight with Marcus tomorrow, but my focus is on second place only now. All that matters is that Sebastien doesn't get too much of a lead in the Championship so I'm going to do all I can to prevent that."

Gronholm and the Peugeot team have the same kinds of thoughts. With Peugeot leading sister marque Citroen in the manufacturers' standings, every point matters, and finishing is the key, especially with Citroen's second nominated driver, Spanish veteran Carlos Sainz lying in fourth place and set to nab five points for his former team.

"It's good to fight for second, though I'd far rather be fighting for first," Gronholm admitted. "The tyre choice has been okay, but sometimes they've been a bit hard - to some extent we've been guessing a bit. Still, we're only a bit behind Petter so it's still possible to do something."

"(Team principal) Jean-Pierre Nicolas has told me that I have to finish and I'm not allowed to go off, so I have to do as I'm told. The frustrating thing is that we've not really had a problem today, but when it comes down to it we're just not fast enough," added the twice WRC champion. "It's possible I can maybe go a bit quicker, but if I did, that would be with a big risk."

The gap between Solberg and Gronholm is only eight seconds with two stages covering 49.80km to go on Sunday, but with both drivers on orders to stay on the road, will Gronholm be able to risk enough to regain second place?

Sainz is ready to receive a gift, should either Solberg or Gronholm make a mistake tomorrow -- and Peugeot's second pilot, Markko Martin, is in fifth, albeit another minute and a half behind, and over five minutes adrift of the lead.

Tony Gardemeister and Roman Kresta, Ford's "youth squad," are sixth and seventh, and Galli is now sadly back in eight place after his stunning Friday performance, having suffered a turbo failure on SS12 and losing some eight minutes in the event.

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Series WRC
Drivers Carlos Sainz , Petter Solberg , Sébastien Loeb , Jean-Pierre Nicolas , Roman Kresta , Gianluigi Galli , Markko Martin
Teams Citroën World Rally Team