A copybook day for Loeb and Elena A score of six fastest times from six saw Sebastien Loeb and Daniel Elena profit from the second leg of the 2009 Rally de Portugal to put in a faultless run. The five-time World Champions eased ahead after the...
A copybook day for Loeb and Elena
A score of six fastest times from six saw Sebastien Loeb and Daniel Elena profit from the second leg of the 2009 Rally de Portugal to put in a faultless run. The five-time World Champions eased ahead after the day's second test and went on to pull out a lead of 26 seconds over their closest chaser. The cushion gives them valuable breathing space in their bid to harvest another win when competition resumes tomorrow morning. Dani Sordo and Marc Marti follow in third place, ready to pounce should an opportunity come their way...
With no fewer than five drivers grouped within less than 50 seconds overnight, the second full day of competition promised to be yet another thriller. The programme was essentially a repeat of the previous day's format, with a menu of three magnificent gravel stages in the Algarve to be contested twice each. Sebastien Loeb hit the ground running with a fastest time on SS8 (Santa Clara 1) which saw Marcus Gronholm go off. The Citroen driver was on top of the timesheets again on Almodovar 1 (SS9) and emerged from the test on top of the leaderboard, 1.6s clear of Mikko Hirvonen. The first loop concluded with Vascao 1 (SS10) on which Dani Sordo lost contact with the two front-runners following a straight-on: "I misheard a note and turned in too late. We only dropped a handful of seconds, but the incident unsettled me for a short while. Today's stages were quite a challenge, with numerous blind crests and other narrower, twistier portions. It was so easy to make a mistake..."
Sebastien Loeb turned up at the lunchtime break with a lead of 6.9s over Hirvonen: "This morning has obviously gone more my way. I was helped by my position on the road, but I have to say that I was surprised by some of the stage times. I managed to pull out a gap on certain tests, but Mikko didn't loose that much time on others. I pushed hard all morning and I intend to keep up the same sort of pace next time round because six seconds isn't a big enough cushion to go into the final day. I would feel far more comfortable if I could extend the gap to at least 20 seconds..."
Dani Sordo was 37s down on his team-mate at this point, but he was almost a minute clear of Petter Solberg in fourth place: "I dropped a little time, but my position is still good for Citroen. I will above all try not to make any more mistakes this afternoon."
As far as Loeb and Elena were concerned, the second loop turned out to be a 'cut and paste' of the first, with the No.1 Citroen C4WRC revelling in the conditions. Three further fastest times allowed the Frenchman to gradually extend the gap and he ended up achieving the target he had set himself for the day: "It's been a perfect day! We were 18s down this morning and we are now 26s clear this evening. It wasn't easy taking 44s off Mikko in a straight fight but we've got a nice lead now. That said, we can't afford to drop our guard because it's difficult to tell exactly how important the roadsweeping factor is from one stage to the next. You don't really realise while you're on the stage and we had a couple of surprises today when we found out the times of the other crews at the stop control!"
Dani Sordo and Marc Marti were particularly at ease during the afternoon's run and they returned to the Estadio Algarve in third place, half a minute behind Hirvonen: "It's been a good day for us, even though it's obviously a shame I made a mistake on SS10. Had it not been for that, I could have been battling with Mikko for second place. This rally isn't over yet, though. I will carry on pushing tomorrow and I intend to make the most of any opportunity that comes my way. I believe I drove well again. From what I can remember of Portugal in 2007, I definitely feel I have come on a lot on gravel, and I've been posting times on a par with the top drivers. That's given my confidence a big boost, not only for tomorrow but also for the rallies to come..."