Dani Sordo prepares for push on gravel

"We have had a great race up to this point"

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By Olivier Ferret

26 October 2013 - 22:50
Dani Sordo prepares for push on (...)

Picking up where they left off on day one of Rally de España, Dani Sordo and Carlos del Barrio continued to produce a faultless performance in front of a highly partisan home crowd. The Citroën Total Abu Dhabi World Rally Team crew lie second overall ahead of tomorrow’s final leg, which will be held on gravel roads. Fifth-placed Mikko Hirvonen and Jarmo Lehtinen are also well placed to fight for a podium spot.

After yesterday’s first leg of night stages, Rallye de España continued today on the Catalan tarmac roads. The crews set off from the service park to head for Riudecanyes and the day’s first stage. By the end of SS4, Dani Sordo and Jari-Matti Latvala had set the joint-fastest time, allowing them to close the gap to Sébastien Ogier.

On the next stage, the Citroën Total Abu Dhabi World Rally Team driver went quickest again, enabling him to grab second position in the overall standings. And then on the third and final test of the morning loop, Ogier picked up a puncture, catapulting Dani Sordo and Jari-Matti Latvala into the lead, once again level with each other!

“We had to find the right balance between pushing, wearing out the tyres and taking limited risks, since the aim is certainly not to be leading this evening,” commented Dani on his return to the Salou service park. “We’ll have to keep going at the same pace this afternoon and try to stay just behind Jari-Matti.”

Fourth at this stage of the race, Mikko Hirvonen was also pleased with his morning’s work. “With dry, clean roads and a consistent level of grip, I’ve enjoyed driving the car a lot more than I did in Germany and France,” said the Finn. “I had pretty consistent pace and I think I can go even faster. I’m going to drive as quickly as I can without worrying about what might be the best position for the final day.”

The afternoon loop was shorter, as it was limited to second runs on El Priorat (a lengthy 42.04km, all the same) and Colldejou, with the day’s racing concluding with a super special stage. The stakes were highest on SS8, as it would determine the starting order for the third leg and serve as the rally’s Power Stage, with bonus points for the top three!

Keeping perfectly to the target time set for him by the team, Dani Sordo held onto second position overall, 1.2s behind Latvala! Struggling with his rapidly deteriorating tyres, Mikko Hirvonen slipped from fourth to sixth, before making up a place on the Salou super special stage.

“I think we have had a great race up to this point and we have achieved our objective of staying behind Jari-Matti,” said Dani Sordo. “The final outcome is however far from decided, with Neuville, Ogier, Hirvonen and Novikov all not far behind. It is difficult to know who has the best position, but I do know that we’ll have to push as hard as possible tomorrow! It‘ll be difficult, because gravel really isn’t my favourite surface, but I’ll fight to try and win.”

“Maybe I lost a few seconds by being too cautious on Colldejou, but overall it has been a positive day,” assessed Mikko. “I will have a very good starting position tomorrow. I’ve got nothing to lose, so I’m going to go for it without holding back, to try and finish on the podium. The top six drivers all have a real chance.”

Twelfth overall, Khalid Al-Qassimi was also reasonably pleased with his day’s performance, after making up four positions during the leg: “It was a lot better than yesterday! I gradually felt more confident and I was able to try some different things, both in terms of the set-up and my driving style. We start from scratch again tomorrow on the gravel, but I’m still pleased with how today went.”

Apart from the super special stage, Robert Kubica won all of the day’s timed stages. The Pole is therefore well on course to claiming another WRC2 category win. After his closest challenger retired, he now holds a lead of some four minutes.

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