Saturday wrap: Loeb on course for glory

World champion extends advantage over team-mate Hirvonen


By Franck Drui

11 March 2012 - 02:15
Saturday wrap: Loeb on course for (...)

Sebastien Loeb will start the final day of Rally Guanajuato Mexico on course for his sixth-straight victory in Leon after he completed day two with a margin of 36.2s over his Citroen team-mate Mikko Hirvonen.

Loeb was able to extend his advantage throughout Saturday’s tests, held in sweltering temperatures in front of thousands of enthusiastic fans, following a hugely impressive display. There are now four stages remaining until the finish on Sunday afternoon.

However, with one of those stages, Guanajuatito, measuring 54.30 kilometres in length, the outcome of this thrilling round of the FIA World Rally Championship powered by Nokia is far from settled.

“Now we have a good and comfortable situation but there is still a long way to go and a 54-kilometre stage so still nothing is done,” said the eight-time world champion. “It’s a rally where I have had a lot of success and I hope that continues tomorrow.”

Behind second-placed Hirvonen, Jari-Matti Latvala is in third position for the factory Ford team. The Finn began day two still with an outside chance of catching the Citroen drivers at the head of the order only for a puncture on stage 15 to drop him out of contention. Nevertheless a spate of rapid stage times ensures a podium finish remains in the Ford driver’s grasp on the final day.

“It’s really good to see our car is very competitive,” said Latvala. “Without the problems we’ve had things could be really good.”

Petter Solberg, in the second works Fiesta, overcame brake problems on Saturday morning to move ahead of fellow Norwegian Mads Ostberg after his countryman gradually slipped back. He is fourth overnight with Ostberg fifth and Estonian Ott Tanak impressing in sixth position.

Tanak lost time with a spin and a stall on stage 14 and then a puncture on stage 15 but was keeping M-Sport team-mate Evgeny Novikov at bay when the Russian tore a wheel off his Fiesta on the final stage, promoting Nasser Al-Attiyah up to seventh for the Qatar World Rally Team.

WRC Team MINI Portugal ace Armindo Araujo is eighth with Sebastien Ogier ninth for Volkswagen Motorsport and Ken Block fighting back to 10th following his delays on Friday.

Chris Atkinson was in eighth place when he crashed his Monster World Rally Team Fiesta after the flying finish of the second Otates stage following a loss of brakes. He is set to restart under Rally 2 rules on Sunday.

Paulo Nobre restarted under Rally 2 on Saturday morning but crashed one kilometre from the start of the day’s second stage in his WRC Team MINI Portugal John Cooper Works. It’s not clear whether the Brazilian will return on day three.

Nobre’s early exit meant Thierry Neuville spent much of day two cleaning the road by running at the head of the field. “We learned a lot but it’s a little bit frustrating when you are driving and the times are so bad cleaning the road,” he said.

01 S. LOEB / D. ELENA Citroën DS3 WRC 3h25m17.5s
02 M. HIRVONEN / J. LEHTINEN Citroën DS3 WRC +36.2s
03 J. LATVALA / M. ANTTILA Ford Fiesta RS WRC +1m53.0s
04 P. SOLBERG / C. PATTERSON Ford Fiesta RS WRC +2m10.9s
05 M. ØSTBERG / J. ANDERSSON Ford Fiesta RS WRC +2m44.2s
06 O. TÄNAK / K. SIKK Ford Fiesta RS WRC +4m22.1s
07 N. AL ATTIYAH / G. BERNACCHINI Citroën DS3 WRC +6m10.8s
08 A. ARAÚJO / M. RAMALHO MINI WRC +10m42.1s
09 S. OGIER / J. INGRASSIA Skoda Fabia S2000 +12m02.7s
10 K. BLOCK / A. GELSOMINO Ford Fiesta RS WRC +13m51.8s
11 E. NOVIKOV / D. GIRAUDET Ford Fiesta RS WRC +14m29.1s
12 B. GUERRA / B. ROZADA MITSUBISHI Lancer Evo X +18m42.0s
13 R. TRIVINO / A. HARO Ford Fiesta RS WRC +18m48.4s
14 N. FUCHS / F. MUSSANO MITSUBISHI Lancer Evo X +21m18.7s
15 C. ATKINSON / S. PRÉVOT Ford Fiesta RS WRC +21m57.8s
16 T. NEUVILLE / N. GILSOUL Citroën DS3 WRC +29m11.3s
17 G. LINARI / N. ARENA SUBARU Impreza +37m07.6s
19 T. ERDI JUN / A. TABORSZKI MITSUBISHI Lancer Evo X +1h02m43.2s
20 P. NOBRE / E. PAULA MINI WRC +1h06m23.4s


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