Saturday midday wrap: Loeb leads in Finland
"I have done a perfect morning"
Sebastien Loeb has completed Saturday’s opening loop of five stages with an advantage of 10.8s over Citroen team-mate Sebastien Ogier in the battle for victory on Neste Oil Rally Finland.
Loeb feared he would drop time running at the head of the field on the final day of the gravel event but overnight rain helped to compact the surface gravel and nullify any potential disadvantage on the opening brace of stages, which the seven-time world champion won following two staggering performances.
However, with ambient temperatures rising and the road surface drying, Loeb reported a significant amount of loose gravel on stage 15, which allowed Ogier to trim his advantage. But a small mistake by Ogier on stage 16 allowed Loeb to hit back.
“I have done a perfect morning because I could not go faster,” said Loeb. “It’s still very close and we will see in the afternoon how it goes. Sometimes the conditions have been really difficult. There was a lot of loose.”
Behind Ogier, Jari-Matti Latvala continues to head the Ford challenge although the Finn was far from happy after completing the 16th stage 20.0s behind Loeb having started the day 2.6s adrift of top spot.
“I can’t catch them,” said Latvala. “Even though I feel quite okay I can’t catch them and I don’t know what I can do. I can’t get them on speed so I will have to see if something happens at the front.”
Petter Solberg is fourth but has complained about a lack of grip and traction in his privateer Citroen DS3 WRC. The Norwegian’s struggles have allowed countryman Mads Ostberg to close to within 15.1s in his M-Sport Stobart Fiesta.
“We have changed all the differentials and dampers but we have no grip and it’s really difficult to attack and hold the front of the car in on the corners,” said a frustrated Solberg.
The charging Mikko Hirvonen’s recovery from his day one woes has brought him to within touching distance of the top five. With three stage wins on Saturday morning, the factory Ford driver is now 6.1s behind Ostberg in sixth overall, despite suffering a minor overshoot on stage 16.
Dani Sordo has enjoyed a solid morning in his MINI John Cooper Works WRC to maintain seventh place ahead of Henning Solberg. Ex-Formula One world champion Kimi Raikkonen is ninth with MINI’s Kris Meeke 10th.
After 15 stages Juho Hanninen and Hayden Paddon continue to head the Super 2000 World Rally Championship and Production Car World Rally Championship respectively. Timo van der Marel was on top of the WRC Academy classification after 14 stages.
|01||S. LOEB / D. ELENA||Citroën DS3 WRC||2h03m03.0s|
|02||S. OGIER / J. INGRASSIA||Citroën DS3 WRC||+10.8s|
|03||J. LATVALA / M. ANTTILA||Ford Fiesta RS WRC||+20.0s|
|04||P. SOLBERG / C. PATTERSSON||Citroën DS3 WRC||+1m12.0s|
|05||M. ØSTBERG / J. ANDERSSON||Ford Fiesta RS WRC||+1m27.1s|
|06||M. HIRVONEN / J. LEHTINEN||Ford Fiesta RS WRC||+1m33.2s|
|07||D. SORDO / C. DEL BARRIO||MINI WRC||+2m11.2s|
|08||H. SOLBERG / I. MINOR||Ford Fiesta RS WRC||+2m58.0s|
|09||K. RAIKKONEN / K. LINDSTRÖM||Citroën DS3 WRC||+3m02.6s|
|10||K. MEEKE / P. NAGLE||MINI WRC||+3m12.1s|
|11||M. WILSON / S. MARTIN||Ford Fiesta RS WRC||+3m17.7s|
|12||J. HANNINEN / M. MARKKULA||Skoda Fabia S2000||+3m38.3s|
|13||M. PROKOP / J. TOMÁNEK||FORD Fiesta S2000||+5m38.0s|
|14||D. KUIPERS / F. MICLOTTE||Ford Fiesta RS WRC||+5m53.3s|
|15||A. MIKKELSEN / O. FLOENE||SKODA Fabia S2000||+6m48.4s|
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