SÃ©bastien Loeb in magistral form SÃ©bastien Loeb and Daniel Elena succeeded in controlling from in front throughout Leg 2 and their efforts have seen them extend their cushion over Petter Solberg from 31.7s this morning to 55.2s tonight.
Sébastien Loeb in magistral form
Sébastien Loeb and Daniel Elena succeeded in controlling from in front throughout Leg 2 and their efforts have seen them extend their cushion over Petter Solberg from 31.7s this morning to 55.2s tonight. Meanwhile, François Duval and Stéphane Prévot were able to re-start today thanks to the remarkable work of their mechanics who put their Xsara back into perfect shape. The objective of the Belgian pair is now to try and score Manufacturers' points for the team.
The combination of today's rough stages and a menu essentially featuring two very long stages both run twice, the second day of action in Sardinia was always going to be a tough challenge. "By the time it was my turn to tackle them, the stages had obviously been swept clear," said Sébastien, who was fifteenth on the road. "But they were also badly cut up with a lot of rocks thrown up by the first cars through. You really had to stay concentrated all the time. I pushed quite hard while trying to drive as cleanly as possible. This is the sort of event where you can end up losing time if you try too hard and you risk hitting trouble."
The only problem Seb reported at the lunch-time service halt was a puncture on SS7 but his Michelin ATS mousse system clearly did its job since the Xsara crew posted its first fastest time of the day. In SS8 ('Tandaló'), the longest test the weekend, Seb preferred to survey Petter Solberg's charge from in front and only dropped 2.5s. "I preferred to lift towards the end since the road was more reminiscent of a rough Acropolis Rally stage."
The second loop kicked off with the very short 'Lovia Avra' test (5.01 km) followed by repeat runs through 'Loelle' and 'Tandaló' for a total of nearly 70 km of competitive action to conclude the day. In SS10, Petter resisted, dropping just 1½ seconds. "That prompted me to push quite hard at the start of SS11," said Seb. "I didn't want to be caught out by a slow first split time. When I saw I was pulling clear, I continued at the same pace, although I took it easy over the roughest part."
François Duval wanted to move back up the leaderboard today, while at the same time endeavouring to keep clear of further trouble. The young Belgian accordingly chose a fast yet safe pace. Helped by the various incidents that marked the day, this allowed him to climb from 22nd to 12th position despite being awarded a far from favourable notional time for SS7 and in spite of a puncture on SS9 which forced him to fit his spare wheel after the stage... and finish the loop with caution. The question now is whether he will succeed in securing valuable extra Manufacturers' points? It is still too early to say since that will depend on the ability of certain of his rivals to re-start on Sunday morning.
Both privately-entered Xsaras experienced a delicate first loop: Juuso Pykälistö had trouble changing down gears under heavy braking although that was cured at midday service. He currently figures in 9th place. Manfred Stohl was unable to push as hard as he would have liked since he had only covered the stages once during recce as a result of his stomach pains before the start. He is 11th overall tonight.