Saturday midday wrap: Citroen aces to continue fight

Team chief rules out team orders on Rally Guanajuato Mexico


By Franck Drui

10 March 2012 - 17:44
Saturday midday wrap: Citroen aces (...)

Rally Guanajuato Mexico is shaping up to be another classic battle between Citroen’s two factory drivers.

Last season Sebastien Loeb and former team-mate Sebastien Ogier were embroiled in a close scrap for honours in Mexico until Ogier crashed out of the lead on the final morning.

Although Loeb extended his advantage over new team-mate Mikko Hirvonen to 18.2s with the fastest time on stage 14, Otates 1, this morning, Citroen team principal Yves Matton says his drivers won’t be told to hold position on round three of the FIA World Rally Championship powered by Nokia.

“The aim is for our cars to finish in the top two positions,” said Matton. “Our crews will continue to drive freely, because we reckon that Jari-Matti Latvala’s pace may be enough to pose a threat to at least one of our cars. For the time being, the only instruction given to the drivers, as such, is get to the finish without making any mistakes.”

Latvala, in a factory Ford, is 1m25.6s behind Loeb following his delay on Friday when contact with a rock broke a front suspension arm. He recorded his sixth fastest stage time on Saturday’s opening higher-speed test but lost a few seconds on the more twisty Otates run. But with nine stages remaining until the finish in Leon on Sunday afternoon, the Finn is still in contention for victory.

“I try but the differences are so small to catch them,” said Latvala. “But I need to keep the pressure on and they have to keep concentrating. That’s the only thing I can do.”

Mads Ostberg began day two in third overall but dropped behind Latvala to fourth on Ibarrilla 1 due to a combination of low-lying sun and a build-up of dust inside his Adapta Fiesta affecting his vision.

Petter Solberg maintains fifth overall in his works Fiesta, which suffered a loss of brakes from the halfway point of stage 14. Ott Tanak, in an M-Sport-run Fiesta, is sixth despite losing time with a spin and stall on the same test.

Evgeny Novikov is seventh in the second M-Sport Fiesta with Chris Atkinson eighth in his Monster-backed example. Nasser Al-Attiyah from the Qatar World Rally Team and Armindo Araujo round out the top 10.

Paulo Nobre, who partners Araujo at WRC Team MINI Portugal, is out after tearing a wheel off his John Cooper Works WRC one kilometre from the start of Otates. Thierry Neuville, who like Nobre restarted under Rally 2 regulations, is up to 20th overall in his Citroen Junior World Rally Team DS3.

Mexico’s Benito Guerra continues to head the Production Car World Rally Championship standings with Michal Kosciuszko still in second place despite damaging the side of his Mitsubishi Lancer when he clouted a large rock on a right-hand bend on stage 13. He heads American Ken Block in the overall standings in 14th.


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