SS16: Loeb closes on Spanish success
Ogier was the fastest through the stage
Sebastien Loeb has moved a step closer to winning RallyRACC-Rally de Espana for a seventh time after his closest rival, Jari-Matti Latvala, confirmed he wouldn’t be taking any risks in a last-ditch attempt to catch the Citroen ace.
Ford driver Latvala was second fastest through the stage and is now 28.2s behind Loeb with two stages left to run. He said: “I didn’t want to take any risks. I took no cuts and made no mistakes. It was a smooth run.”
Loeb said: “I was just looking at the splits of Jari-Matti, there is no more to do. I just try to stay on the road and hope not to have any puncture like always. I didn’t cut anywhere.”
Mikko Hirvonen, in the second factory Fiesta, said: “Now there’s no pressure [from fourth-placed Dani Soro] I don’t have to take risks or anything. Maybe I have to look after the tyres a bit more [for the Power Stage].”
MINI driver Kris Meeke was using a combination of soft and hard compound Michelin tyres after reports that it might rain in the next stage, La Mussara. “We had soft tyres on the right and hards on the left,” said Meeke. “It was a tricky combination so I was concentrating keeping the car on the road.”
Team-mate Dani Sordo also made the same tyre choice, which proved less than ideal in the dry conditions. As a result his margin over fifth-placed Citroen driver Sebastien Ogier has been narrowed to 13.7s with two stages remaining.
“I knew he had a soft tyre on the car so we tried to push a bit just to know if the gap can be closer than that,” said Ogier, who was fastest through the stage.
Asked whether he could keep Ogier at bay, Sordo said: “It will be very difficult. With the soft tyres the car is much slower. It’s difficult but we decided in the service as a team to do this.”
Peter van Merksteijn Jr suffered a high-speed spin in his Citroen. Daniel Oliveira completed the run with a front-left puncture on his Brazil World Rally Team MINI John Cooper Works WRC.
Juho Hanninen continues to lead the Super 2000 World Rally Championship standings from Nasser Al-Attiyah with Patrik Flodin ahead on the Production Car World Rally Championship, albeit by 3.2s from Michal Kosciuszko.
Standings after SS16:
|01||S. LOEB / D. ELENA||Citroën DS3 WRC||3h51m35.8s|
|02||J. LATVALA / M. ANTTILA||Ford Fiesta RS WRC||+28.2s|
|03||M. HIRVONEN / J. LEHTINEN||Ford Fiesta RS WRC||+1m58.2s|
|04||D. SORDO / C. DEL BARRIO||MINI WRC||+3m18.8s|
|05||S. OGIER / J. INGRASSIA||Citroën DS3 WRC||+3m32.5s|
|06||K. MEEKE / P. NAGLE||MINI WRC||+5m02.3s|
|07||M. ØSTBERG / J. ANDERSSON||Ford Fiesta RS WRC||+5m44.7s|
|08||E. NOVIKOV / D. GIRAUDET||Citroën DS3 WRC||+9m06.8s|
|09||H. SOLBERG / I. MINOR||Ford Fiesta RS WRC||+9m09.8s|
|10||M. WILSON / S. MARTIN||Ford Fiesta RS WRC||+10m38.1s|
|11||D. KUIPERS / F. MICLOTTE||Ford Fiesta RS WRC||+10m45.8s|
|12||J. HÄNNINEN / M. MARKKULA||SKODA Fabia S2000||+13m07.2s|
|13||N. AL-ATTIYAH / G. BERNACCHINI||FORD Fiesta S2000||+13m14.1s|
|14||K. AL QASSIMI / M. ORR||Ford Fiesta RS WRC||+13m45.5s|
|15||M. PROKOP / J. TOMÁNEK||FORD Fiesta S2000||+13m55.0s|
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