Loeb keeps up the pressure
"We paid for our poor performance in qualifying"
Sébastien Loeb and Daniel Elena pushed throughout the second day to consolidate their second position overall at Rally Sweden. The Citroën Total Abu Dhabi World Rally Team crew didn’t let their level drop at all, closing the gap to the leader slightly!
Like yesterday, the leg started very early with a lengthy road section from Karlstad to Hagfors. Run twice during the day, the loop of four tests included three forest stages (Sågen, Fredriksberg and Rämmen) and a short sprint around Hagfors.
Starting two minutes before Sébastien Ogier, Sébastien Loeb enjoyed – unlike Friday – similar road conditions to those of his rival. The morning’s stages saw the nine-time World Champion put the leader under pressure. Second fastest on SS9 and SS10, the DS3 WRC no.1 driver then went quickest on Rämmen 1 (SS11). After the first loop, Seb had taken five seconds out of his former team-mate’s lead. “That’s not the main thing, because I don’t think I can catch him in normal racing conditions. It matters most of all that I’ve extended my lead over Latvala,” specified Loeb on his return to Hagfors airport. “The race is going very much the same way as yesterday, except that today we’ve got the same road conditions as our rivals. We have also improved the set-up of the DS3 WRC. We’re going to keep pushing!”
Tied for the fastest time on SS12, Loeb and Ogier continued their battle throughout the afternoon. The more decorated of the Sebs had the final word, winning the day’s final stage, leaving Ogier with a 26.9s lead at the end of day two. “We both had a perfect day, but the gap was established yesterday. We paid for our poor performance in qualifying throughout the first leg,” admitted Seb Loeb. “Once again, we really enjoyed ourselves in the car. The stages were magnificent even though we had the odd close shave in a few places…”
Having dropped out of contention to win the rally on SS2, Mikko Hirvonen and Jarmo Lehtinen continued their race in committed fashion. Third on the road, Mikko adjusted perfectly to the conditions. “It’s true that we had to sweep the lines, but the layer of fresh snow provided us with a relatively consistent level of grip,” explained the Finn. “That meant I could choose my line freely and I enjoyed driving the car. I’ll just keep going with the aim of picking up some points in the Power Stage. It will be difficult, but we have to try!”
“Today’s leg confirmed the performance level of the DS3 WRC,” analysed Xavier Mestelan-Pinon, Citroën Racing Technical Director. “The fact that they road conditions were more equitable for the leaders and we had made some improvements to the set-up of the cars meant that we made good progress. Obviously, this could be most clearly seen in the performance of Seb, but Mikko’s times were entirely consistent if you take his starting position into consideration.”
After starting day two in eleventh position, Dani Sordo had little trouble moving back into the top 10 in the overall standings. “After a disappointing first stage, we changed some of the suspension settings. After that, the car was more balanced and I felt more confident in it,” explained the Spaniard. “We still have some improvements to make and I can make up another place tomorrow. More importantly, I want to go home having had a good feeling in the DS3 WRC.”
The day didn’t go so well for Khalid Al Qassimi and Scott Martin, who were forced to retire after going off on SS15. “It’s a real shame, because I had found decent pace,” explained the Abu Dhabi Citroën Total WRT driver. “The stages were quicker than yesterday, and I felt good. I got caught out and we had to stop. The engine was overheating since the radiator was damaged.” The team was waiting for the car to get to the service park before assessing whether or not the Emirati could rejoin under Rally2 regulations.
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