Midday update: Loeb closes on leader Ogier in Portugal Sebastien Ogier continues to lead Vodafone Rally de Portugal following Saturday's opening loop of three stages. However, Sebastien Loeb, the defending world champion, has stepped up his ...
Midday update: Loeb closes on leader Ogier in Portugal
Sebastien Ogier continues to lead Vodafone Rally de Portugal following Saturday's opening loop of three stages. However, Sebastien Loeb, the defending world champion, has stepped up his pursuit of his young countryman by closing to within 22.9 seconds of the lead of the event as the battle for victory heats up on the sun-drenched Algarve roads.
Loeb started day two in third position and almost 45 seconds off the lead but moved to second ahead of team-mate Dani Sordo with the fastest time through the Vascao stage, the second of the morning.
Loeb was also quickest on the first stage but he conceded he had thrown caution to the wind in terms of how he is managing his tyres on the demanding gravel tracks. "We are trying to take some time to Seb but on the last stage I was not so confident and made a little mistake in the water splash at the start," said Loeb. "But I will try to continue to put pressure on him."
Ogier, who is chasing his maiden victory in the WRC, said: "We did a great morning with no mistakes and found a good rhythm but it has been difficult to be first on the road so far. Yesterday we were good with managing our tyres so we try to do the same today.
Sordo is 0.5sec behind Loeb despite nearly going off in a water splash on SS9. Petter Solberg is fourth after going fastest on the final stage of the morning. The Norwegian privateer is 33.9sec behind Ogier.
Mikko Hirvonen is fifth overall but 44.5sec adrift of top spot. He admitted to making a few driving errors on stage 10 and also reported that his works Ford Focus was "sliding all over the place" on the previous run.
Jari-Matti Latvala started the day in sixth position but went off over a crest two kilometres into the ninth stage and damaged a wheel hitting a tree in his Focus. Henning Solberg is sixth, despite a fuel pump problem, while seventh-placed Matthew Wilson reported brake problems and a lack of rear-end grip. Mads Ostberg is eighth with ex-Formula One driver Kimi Raikkonen ninth and Federico Villagra tenth.
Ken Block was prevented from restarting due to damage sustained to his car's roll cage following his roll on Friday.
After Nasser Al-Attiyah's retirement with an electrical-related engine problem, fellow Ford Fiesta driver Jari Ketomaa is in control of the Super 2000 World Rally Championship class, two minutes up on P-G Andersson in a Skoda Fabia after stage nine.
Going into the morning's final stage, overnight J-WRC leader Aaron Burkart defends a four-minute advantage over Kevin Abbring in the young driver category. The morning's biggest story from the Juniors concerns Yeray Lemes' retirement from second place with an engine failure.
Following service in Faro, crews will repeat the morning stages in the afternoon when the jockeying for starting positions for the final day is set to intensify.