SS20 & 21: Ogier pulls clear
SS20, Kirkener (7.16km) / SS21, Finnskogen (16.82km)
If anyone had any doubts about the outcome of Rally Sweden, they were surely dispelled in the second pass through the heavily-rutted Kirkener and Finnskogen tests.
In a little over 7km of Kirkener, leader Sebastien Ogier was 3.9sec faster than second-placed Sebastien Loeb to widen his advantage at the head of the leaderboard. And when Loeb made a mistake in Finnskogen, Ogier’s lead had jumped from 20.7sec to 35.4sec.
The Volkswagen Polo R driver was fastest in Kirkener and second in Finnskogen and said: “When I saw the split was -10sec to Loeb, I completely backed off. I just had to drive and try to avoid mistakes.”
Loeb admitted his victory hopes had gone. “I went into a snow bank. I made a few mistakes and then I said ‘OK, that’s it’ ”.
Mads Ostberg tightened his grip on third ahead of Jari-Matti Latvala after tying with the Finn in Kirkener and setting fastest time through Finnskogen in his Ford Fiesta RS.
“I made some adjustments to the car and the balance immediately felt better. I couldn’t cope with the rear of the car, so I made it stiffer at the rear and softer at the front. I’m more confident and I can push a little harder without making mistakes,” said the Norwegian.
Latvala was despondent after dropping 3.3sec to Ostberg with third fastest in Finnskogen. “I really tried but I don’t think it’s going to be enough. It seems to be impossible to take that time. I can’t drive at Ogier’s speed. I do not know why. I don’t have an answer,” he said.
There was drama further down the field as fifth-placed Evgeny Novikov rolled his Ford Fiesta RS in Kirkener and dropped more than 10 minutes, sliding down to ninth.
“It was a tricky corner,” said the Russian. “It was blind and I came too fast into the bend. It was very narrow and we rolled. It took a long time to get back on the wheels. It was my mistake, I braked too late.”
That promoted Thierry Neuville to fifth overall on only his second visit to Sweden, the young Belgian surviving two small offs in his Fiesta RS in Kirkener.
Dani Sordo was another Kirkener casualty. The Spaniard hit a rock buried in a snow bank and retired from eighth place.
Yazeed Al Rajhi continues to lead the WRC 2 category in his Fiesta RRC from Anders Grondal. The Saudi Arabian is 44.8sec clear of the Norwegian’s Subaru Impreza.
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