SS2: Ogier the pacesetter
Sebastien Ogier continued his perfect start to Wales Rally GB by going fastest through Thursday’s second night stage.
The Frenchman brought his Polo R to the finish control 0.9sec quicker than his Volkswagen team-mate Jari-Matti Latvala who was again his closest challenger.
“It’s a good start but they are not easy conditions – especially at night,” Ogier said. “For now we just try to do no mistakes, there’s no big attack at the moment, and the rhythm is okay.”
“It’s a very tight battle,” reflected Latvala. “I’m enjoying it, especially when the roads are fast and smooth and we have reasonable grip. But when it’s slower and more technical I don’t have confidence. That’s where I can improve. Maybe the car is too stiff.”
Thierry Neuville was third fastest, 1.1sec slower than Latvala, but concerned that his Ford Fiesta RS WRC might have been damaged by a heavy impact. “We hit a huge rock with the sump guard,” he explained. “It was in the middle of the road and lifted up the whole front of the car, so I have to check that. I also have a problem with the gear lever, but I don’t think that’s such a big issue.”
Citroen DS3 WRC driver Mikko Hirvonen was fourth quickest, to move up to the same position overall, 12.4 seconds off the lead. “It was alright but I don’t yet have the rhythm and that’s losing us time,” he said.
Fifth fastest was Mads Ostberg, who continued to struggle with an ongoing gear shift problem. Despite this, he moved up to fifth overall after Volkswagen’s Andreas Mikkelsen dropped two places.
“That stage was a disaster for me,” sighed Mikkelsen. “It was a really tricky road so I had a lot of detail in my pace notes, but when they were read back to me in English there was too much information to take in! At some points it was hard to know where I was, I had no clue, and that cost me a lot of seconds.”
Mikkelsen ended up with the eighth fastest time, 16,9sec slower than Ogier’s.
World Rally Car newcomer Robert Kubica was seventh fastest, and acknowledged his recent change of co-driver was taking some getting used to. “This stage wasn’t the best for pace-notes,” he said. “We have no experience of working together in these conditions, and in the day at least you can see something!”
Evgeny Novikov was sixth fastest but reported a problem with the launch control system on his Ford Fiesta RS. Michal Solowow, also in a Fiesta RS WRC, dropped a minute to the leaders with a suspected broken rear driveshaft.
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