Saturday midday wrap: Ogier shrinks Solberg’s lead
Petter Solberg has completed the opening loop of three stages on day two of the Acropolis Rally with a lead of 5.4s at the wheel of his privateer Citroen DS3 WRC.
The 36-year-old from Norway started the day with an advantage of 51.6s but the delays caused by running first on the road over the loose surface gravel plus an overshoot on the day’s second stage has dropped him firmly into the clutches of Sebastien Ogier, who impressed by going fastest on all three stages in his factory-entered DS3 WRC.
“It was my own fault when I went on straight on at a junction and Ogier is faster than everybody, that’s how it is,” said Solberg. “It’s not frustrating because I expected to lose this time, except for the overshoot and for Ogier. The road was much more loose than everybody expected so for him it’s a big advantage. I will lose a little bit more this afternoon, there is no doubt so I hope Ogier will be far enough in front to be happy to stay there and then we will see for tomorrow.”
Ogier admitted he did not expect to take so much time out of Solberg. “It was a very good morning and incredible to see how much we took from Petter,” said Ogier. “We expected to take some time but not like that. It’s almost one second per kilometre so it’s a lot. I prefer the stages of today and I have done them in 2009, even though I started with new pace notes. I pushed more and my level of attack is different from yesterday.”
Sebastien Loeb reached the midday service in Loutraki 15 seconds behind Solberg in third overall. He said he was braced for a tough afternoon in his works Citroen. “It will be hard for the tyre, harder than in the morning because there will be more grip because of the cleaning,” said Loeb. “For tonight the best position would be third and three seconds off the first place.”
Mikko Hirvonen, who is fourth in his factory Ford Fiesta RS WRC, said he was at a loss to explain why he couldn’t offer more of a threat to the leading trio of Citroen drivers. “They are just so fast,” said Hirvonen. “I feeling I am driving well and the feeling is good but we are losing a lot on the uphill, particularly on the last two stages.”
Henning Solberg lost time with a brake problem on stage eight but remains fifth overall, one place ahead of M-Sport Stobart team-mate Matthew Wilson, who likened the mechanical glitch that has hampered his Fiesta all morning to an engine misfire.
“Hopefully we can find out what the problem is in service,” said the Briton. “I’ve been pleased with my driving but the middle one was a bit messy and I lost too much time.”
Kimi Raikkonen is seventh overall in his Ice 1 Racing Citroen with Super 2000 World Rally Championship pacesetters Juho Hanninen and Bernardo Sousa eighth and ninth respectively. FERM Power Tools World Rally Team driver Dennis Kuipers completes the top 10 in his Fiesta.
Factory Ford driver Jari-Matti Latvala dropped out of the points-paying positions with a turbo boost problem, while a fuel issue slowed Federico Villagra’s Munchi’s Fiesta on stage eight, which, in turn, delayed Armindo Araujo’s MINI John Cooper Works WRC. The Portuguese also lost time with a powersteering failure.
A lack of powersteering also hobbled Daniel Oliveira’s Brazil World Rally Team MINI for much of the morning’s stages.
Lambros Athanassoulas and Mads Ostberg have both set impressive stage times in their Fiestas on their return under SupeRally regulations.