SS14: Loeb back in control
Citroen’s world champion quickest to extend overall lead
Sebastien Loeb has underlined his supremacy on Rally Guanajuato Mexico by setting the fastest time through the punishing 42-kilometre Otates test.
Driving a Citroen DS3 WRC, the five-time Mexico winner completed the stage 5.5s faster than Ford driver Jari-Matti Latvala, who claimed his sixth stage win on the previous test in his Fiesta RS WRC.
In doing so Loeb has extended his lead on round three of the FIA World Rally Championship powered by Nokia to 18.2s over Citroen team-mate Mikko Hirvonen.
“I had to push,” said world champion Loeb. “The situation was not so good with Hirvonen coming close. I really tried hard on this one.”
Mads Ostberg credited his upturn in pace after struggling on stage 13 to a few set-up changes prior to the run. He was fourth fastest in his Adapta Fiesta. Ostberg’s fellow Norwegian Petter Solberg, who was fifth quickest, said the brakes on his Fiesta had begun to fade nearing the stage finish.
Chris Atkinson suffered a slow spin nearing the stage end after he reported a significant amount of tyre wear on his Fiesta. Sebastien Ogier, in a Volkswagen Motorsport Skoda Fabia Super 2000, also spun, albeit closer to the stage start.
Ott Tanak was another driver to suffer a spin and the Estonian lost more time when his M-Sport Fiesta refused to restart for a time after it stalled.
Paulo Nobre failed to complete the stage after crashing his MINI John Cooper Works WRC, fortunately without injury to neither he nor co-driver Edu Paula, one kilometre from the stage start. The Brazilian tore a wheel from his car during the incident but hopes to return under Rally 2 rules on Sunday.
Nobre’s exit meant Thierry Neuville, running behind the WRC Team MINI Portugal driver on the road, was forced to sweep the stage clear of the loose surface gravel. Afterwards the young Belgian Citroen driver said: “There was so much loose gravel, I was always sliding and sliding with no grip at all. Each corner I lost two seconds but it was okay, good for the experience.”
A service halt in Leon awaits before stage 15, the repeat of Ibarrilla, goes live at 11:06hrs local time.
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