Saturday midday wrap: Loeb heads thriller

World champion holds narrow lead over flying Latvala



26 May 2012 - 12:09
Saturday midday wrap: Loeb heads (...)

Sebastien Loeb leads the Acropolis Rally by 2.2s after the first four stages of what is considered to be the toughest day of round six of the FIA World Rally Championship powered by Nokia due to the punishing nature of the rock-strewn all-gravel stages.

Driving a Citroen DS3 WRC, Loeb started stage 13 just one second ahead of Jari-Matti Latvala in a Ford Fiesta RS WRC but was able to open up a slender advantage heading to the midday service halt in Loutraki after going 1.2s faster than Latvala through the 21.36-kilometre Ziria test, a new addition to the Acropolis route for 2012.

Petter Solberg is third for the factory Ford team with Mikko Hirvonen next up in the second works Citroen. Both drivers have reported being more cautious than their rapid team-mates out in front.

Mads Ostberg has climbed up to sixth in his Adapta Fiesta, despite a driveshaft glitch slowing him down through stage 12. The Norwegian is just 2.4s behind Martin Prokop, who inherited fifth place when Evgeny Novikov failed to start stage 13 with a water pump failure.

Nasser Al-Attiyah is seventh for the Qatar World Rally Team with Volkswagen Motorsport drivers Sebastien Ogier and Andreas Mikkelsen eighth and ninth respectively in their Super 2000-specification Skoda Fabias. Mikkelsen admitted running with no spare hard compound tyres had been a mistake - he selected two soft tyres instead thinking it might rain - while a bent steering arm troubled Ogier through stage 11. Citroen Junior driver Thierry Neuville holds 10th place.

There was early disappointment for Paulo Nobre when the Brazilian struck a rock in his MINI John Cooper Works WRC seven kilometres from the start of the day’s opening stage. He drove on for a few hundred metres before a wheel broke and forced him to retire. Team-mate Armindo Araujo is just outside of the top 10.

Brazil World Rally Team’s Daniel Oliveira restarted on day two having withdrawn on Friday morning due to illness. Ott Tanak is also continuing under Rally 2 rules but reported a lack of confidence in his M-Sport Fiesta.

After 12 stages Nicolas Fuchs was the comfortable leader over Valeriy Gorban in the Production Car World Rally Championship. Subhan Aksa had been second but reported a handful of overshoots in the early stages.

Following Saturday’s second stage Elfyn Evans held top spot in the WRC Academy after Alastair Fisher and Pontus Tidemand both hit trouble on the run. Fisher took more than one minute longer than Evans to complete the stage after rolling on a slow corner while a broken driveshaft led to Tidemand’s exit.

Following a 30-minute service halt in Loutraki, crews will head to the repeat of the Klenia Mycenae stage, which gets underway at 15:17hrs local time.


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