Sebastien Loeb stays in front The second leg of Rally Great Britain was run at a searing pace and boiled down to a duel between the C4 WRCs. Despite being under extreme pressure from Petter Solberg, Sebastien Loeb and Daniel Elena held on to...
Sebastien Loeb stays in front
The second leg of Rally Great Britain was run at a searing pace and boiled down to a duel between the C4 WRCs. Despite being under extreme pressure from Petter Solberg, Sebastien Loeb and Daniel Elena held on to their lead by a handful of seconds. The other Citroen Total World Rally Team C4 WRC of Sebastien Ogier and Julien Ingrassia withdrew after an accident.
At the start of the second leg of Rally Great Britain Sebastien Loeb was in the lead with Sebastien Ogier 1.8s behind and Petter Solberg in third place 3.6s in arrears. The leg consisted of nine stages of a total of 138 kilometres to sort out the three C4 WRCs. After a start as early as the previous day, the crews set off for Builth Wells in the heart of the Welsh countryside.
The rally lost one of its victory contenders in the first stage, Radnor. Sebastien Ogier somersaulted off the road just a few hundred metres from the finish and had to retire: "I really wasn't looking forward to that stage. I tackled it cautiously as you always get caught out in such tricky conditions. I came into a fast left- hander a bit too quickly and I wasn't able to take the right line. There was very little grip and I couldn't control the car. We overturned and ended up against a tree stump"
As the rollbar was damaged retirement was inevitable: "I'm hopping mad with myself to end up like this as the team stacked all the odds in my favour. It's very disappointing to finish our season like this, all the more so as we're going to lose second place in the world championship. What I'll remember is how much progress we've made in our second year at this level. I'm now looking to the future as next week we're going testing the DS3WRC."
The Citroen Total World Rally Team's chances now rested on the broad shoulders of Sebastien Loeb, who also had a few dicey moments in the morning stages: "I didn't take any risks in the first stage, which I'm not very keen on. On the other hand, I pushed much harder in Monument Hill and I went straight on. I also lost five seconds doing a 360o. spin in Halfway. Luckily Four Ways Crychan went off well. I was able to let myself go on the eight kilometres of asphalt at the start of the stage. Overall, the gap to Petter Solberg is stable," summed up the 7-time world champion* in the winter sun that lit up the Builth Wells service park.
In the second passage through the four stages Loeb dominated. He set three fastest times in Radnor, Monument Hill and Four Ways Crychan (SS12 to 14), and opened up the gap from 2.5s to 6.7s. But he didn't have time to relax as the Norwegian fought back in Halfway. After the second passage in the Cardiff Bay Super Special the gap between the two drivers was 4.8s.
"Even if I've gained a few seconds during the afternoon, I reckon that we've been on level pegging," said Loeb when he got back to the service park. "I knew that I could open up a small gap in the morning, but I made a couple of small errors. I hope I'll be able to maintain my advantage tomorrow, but Petter is really going like a bat out of hell to try and win the rally and take second place in the world championship. We've got four stages to decide the outcome."
* Subject to the official publication of the results by the FIA.