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This is a discussion on WRC France Oct 1-3 talk/results spoiler** within the Motorsports Talk forums, part of the Community - Meet other Enthusiasts category; Next: Round 11 Rallye De France 01 - 03 Oct 10 Official Website: rallyedefrance.com/gb/ ---------------- The rally If Sebastien Loeb ...

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    Cool WRC France Oct 1-3 talk/results spoiler**

    Next: Round 11 Rallye De France 01 - 03 Oct 10



    Official Website: rallyedefrance.com/gb/

    ----------------

    The rally

    If Sebastien Loeb was going to be born by a river, you’d expect it to be a great river. And the Rhine is a truly great river.

    Starting from a glacier in Switzerland, it races through Italy, Austria, Lichtenstein, Germany, France and Holland, before popping out in the North Sea 1,232 kilometres after it started its icy journey in the mountains.

    Next week, the World Rally Championship will visit the banks of the Rhine for the first time, as the Rally de France switches a Corsican base for the mainland city of Strasbourg.

    And, with a fairytale storyline in the offing, the event’s switch could coincide with Sebastien Loeb’s finest hour. Victory for the Frenchman at home next week would mean 60 world rally wins and seven world rally titles. And he’d do it all within cheering distance of the streets he was brought up on. And on the banks of the Rhine.

    France was not a scheduled stop for the World Rally Championship last season - and the Strasbourg-based event will be quite different to the last time, the 2008 Corsican edition. Gone are the mountains, the big drops and the seemingly never-ending series of bends which led to the event being labelled the Rally of 1,000 Corners.

    And in comes with a fascinating route, running north and south of Strasbourg. Unlike Corsica, each of the three days on next week’s event will have a distinct flavour; in this respect, the Rally de France is similar to Rallye Deutschland, which runs north-west in Trier.

    Read More: wrc.com/news/wrc-countdown-rallye-de-france/


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    Loeb: I'll retire in 2011 – but not due to Ogier

    Record-breaking multiple World Rally Champion Sébastien Loeb has all-but admitted that he will retire from competition at the end of 2011 - but he insists it is not out of fear of being regularly beaten by young Citroën team-mate Sébastien Ogier


    Sébastien Loeb – the most successful driver the World Rally Championship has ever seen – has announced that he will in all likelihood hang up his competitive helmet at the end of 2011, but he insists the burgeoning form of young team-mate and namesake Sébastien Ogier has not forced his hand.

    Loeb made his initial tentative venture into the WRC back in 1999 at the age of 25, winning his first world championship event in Germany three years later and finishing as runner-up in the title chase the season after that. Since 2004, the record-obliterating Frenchman has gone unbeaten, claiming every drivers' trophy since 2004. He is on the verge of adding an incredible seventh consecutive crown to his collection this year.

    Of his 134 WRC starts, all-but two have come with Citroën – and a staggering 59 victories marks a winning ratio of 44 per cent, or not far off one-in-two. In almost three-quarters of the events he has entered, Loeb has finished up on the podium – but the Alsacien's dominance has come under threat of late from Ogier, almost ten years his junior and a man who has defeated him three times in the last five rallies.

    However, in making his retirement revelation in an interview with French magazine Paris Match, Loeb is adamant that he is stepping down of his own volition, and not out of any fear that he is about to be usurped as Citroën's number one driver by his compatriot.

    “Yes,” he truthfully answered, when asked if being regularly beaten by Ogier would accelerate his departure. “I would say to myself that it isn't worth taking excessive risks to try to keep up with him – but it won't be him that ends my career. It's me who will take that decision, and that will doubtless be at the end of the 2011 season.”

    The 36-year-old added that the 15 major accidents he has suffered over the past decade have also impacted his thinking process, as he hinted that his thirst for glory has now been amply quenched.

    “That's what is making me envisage the end of my career,” he candidly confessed. “I reckon I've taken enough risks already, and I'm no longer prepared to keep on taking them. My sole motivation now is pleasure.”

    Loeb recently agreed a one-year extension to his Citroën deal to take him up to the end of the 2011 WRC campaign – which will see him compete in the French manufacturer's new DS3 under the sport's revised regulations – and after that, he ponders, he may be interested in having more children to accompany his two-year-old daughter Valentine, who he quips he would 'encourage to go rallying' if the desire took hold of her.

    Reflecting on the path that has carried him to where he is today, finally, the holder of the Légion d'honneur mused that back at the age of 22 when he was working with electric cables in a factory and barely earning the minimum wage, he was 'a long way' from forecasting what he would go on to become.

    “I've been lucky enough to meet good people along the way,” he acknowledged. “They helped me to progress quickly, and I was able to seize the opportunities that were presented to me – that's my real success. I practice a sport that relies very much upon talent, and I'm lucky to have that. I'm also someone who is precise and gives a lot of thought to things – and rallying is all about such logic.”

    Click: crash.net/wrc/news/loeb_ill_retire_in_2011

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    Loeb: I'm under a hell of a lot of pressure

    Sebastien Loeb: Given my success rate on this kind of surface, everybody's expecting me to stroll home to an easy victory. But this rally won't be any easier than the others. Quite the opposite in fact.


    Sebastien Loeb has admitted he is feeling the pressure ahead of the new-look Rallye de France and despite his dominance on asphalt he has said it is no foregone conclusion he will win.

    The event will be an emotional one for the Frenchman as it is being held in the area where he grew up for the very first time, with the final stage around the streets of Hagenau in homage to the Citroen man who previously lived in the little Bas-Rhin community.

    A win this coming weekend will not only give him and co-driver, Daniel Elena, their 60th WRC victory, but it will also ensure he wins the WRC drivers' title for the seventh time on the trot. The stakes could not be higher and while he is the favourite, he is quick to point out that there are plenty of other drivers' that are capable of winning.

    “It's one hell of a lot of pressure,” said local hero Loeb. “Given my success rate on this kind of surface, everybody's expecting me to stroll home to an easy victory. But this rally won't be any easier than the others.

    “Quite the opposite in fact, as it's a completely new event [having previously been based on the island of Corsica] consisting of quick roads, which include most of the difficulties we normally meet on asphalt.

    “This season, there are six drivers who are all capable of winning, so the overall level of the championship is very high and there's no way victory for me in this event is a foregone conclusion.”

    Loeb has won five events so far this year and has notched up 201 points in total. That gives him a 43 point cushion going into the final three rounds and only two drivers' can mathematically stop him from winning the title - namely fellow countryman, Sebastien Ogier (on 158 points) and Jari-Matti Latvala (on 132 points). It means that to bag the title, Seb will have to win at least one of the three final events and he added that to do that at home would be very special.

    “The ideal would be to clinch it as soon as possible,” Loeb added. “Obviously, winning my sixtieth victory and my seventh world title at home would be the fulfilment of a dream. It would be sheer magic to do that in Hagenau. But to do this it'll take more than just dreams and magic! I'll have to be very quick against rivals whose motivation will be boosted a hundredfold.

    “There's going to be a lot of expectations on the part of all those present, and what's at stake for Citroen is also very important [as we can also clinch the manufacturers' championship for a sixth time, providing the gap to Ford is more than 86 points on Sunday evening]. All that adds to the pressure.

    “I'll just have to cope with it. But I have to say that I'm really looking forward to this rally,” he summed-up.

    Click: crash.net/wrc/news/163646/loeb_im_under_pressure

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    Despite a minor off while testing his Ford Focus WRC prior to the Rallye de France, American Gymkhana sensation Ken Block is feeling upbeat in the build-up to the French event, run for the first time in the Alsace region.

    Block entered a fast left-hand curve on the test stage carrying slightly too much speed and then went off into a ditch. The damage to the Monster-backed car was only slight, so the American is now ready for action on the challenging French asphalt stages.

    “We don’t have asphalt rallies in the United States, so Rally Germany is the only real experience we have on this surface,” said Block - who was nonetheless forced to retire from the German event on the final day due to mechanical failure. “Germany was actually better than I expected because the speed was good. So hopefully we can keep on making progress. Practice is everything: you can’t just jump in and drive.”

    Block has recently been accumulating sealed-surface mileage by filming the latest of his Gymkhana series, where he put a 600-horsepower Ford Fiesta through its paces. The video, which has attracted more than seven million views on You Tube, will not prepare the American for the very specific demands of the Rallye de France though.

    “It was just a bit of fun to show people the speed of the car and what it can do,” he said. “It took three days to film, and I actually had a serious fear of rolling. But any time spent in the car is good, although swapping between cars is always hard. The Focus I use on the WRC is the most awesome car I have ever driven.”

    Block will now complete the rest of the WRC season, driving on asphalt in Spain next month before returning to gravel for the Rally Great Britain.

    Click: wrc.com/news/Ken Block


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    Norway's Petter Solberg went fastest in a mixed-up shakedown, but the real action gets underway tomorrow morning at 0843 with the first of 20 stages.

    Former World Champion Petter Solberg has claimed fastest time in the shakedown for the all-new Rallye de France, over a short asphalt stage running around the service area. The Norwegian set a best time of 1m53.4s in his privately-run Citroen C4 WRC, under cloudy skies and damp conditions. Temperatures were cool at around 11 degrees centigrade.

    The stage was not especially representative of the conditions that the competitors will face over the next three days, and the times were taken by hand as the specialised equipment had already left for the first stage.

    This led to quite a few surprises on the time sheets - but not too much should be read into them. World Touring Car Championship star Yvan Muller was the third-quickest driver on the shakedown, driving Solberg’s old 2006-specification Citroen Xsara WRC.

    “My new team mate is not bad at all, is he?” joked Solberg. “From our point of view everything was really good, but the rally is a different thing. We came very close to winning on the last round in Japan, so we’re going to be pushing hard.”

    The second-quickest car on the shakedown was Hungarian privateer Frigyes Turan in a Peugeot 307 WRC, while the Ford Fiesta Super 2000 of Henning Solberg was fourth-fastest behind Muller.

    Sebastien Loeb, gunning for his seventh consecutive World Championship on home territory in Alsace, could only manage sixth-fastest on the shakedown in his factory Citroen C4 WRC.

    “I think everyone has a lot of pressure but there’s a bit more pressure than usual,” said Loeb. “But in the end I prefer just to concentrate on the rally. If the weather is like this that it could be very slippery, so I think it will be tricky.”

    Former Grand Prix champion Kimi Raikkonen was ninth-fastest, setting a time just 0.7 seconds slower than Loeb. The rally gets underway at 1830 with a ceremonial start in Strasbourg.

    Click: wrc.com/France Shakedown

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    Day 1

    SS1





    SS2





    Sebastien Loeb got his bid for victory on Rallye de France off to a great start by winning Friday's opening two stages and moving into a 7.3 second overall lead.

    After rain overnight, conditions were damp and slippery on the Hohlandsbourg and Firstplan stages, with many drivers reporting tricky conditions as the roads became mud spattered.

    The choice of tyres for the conditions was straightforward, with all WRC drivers electing to fit Pirelli PZeros in soft compound.

    Loeb was 3.9sec quicker than anybody else through the opening 9.9km Hohlandsbourg (SS1), with Sebastien Ogier, also in a Citroen C4 WRC, his closest rival.

    Citroen privateer Petter Solberg got closest to Loeb’s stage winning time on SS2 - completing the 16.58km stage 2.1seconds slower.

    Click: wrc.com/News SS2

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    SS3



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    SS4



    ------------------------

    Midday Wrap

    Despite some pre-event nerves, Citroen driver Sebastien Loeb enjoyed a 100 per cent record through this morning's four Rally of France stages south of the event's base in Strasbourg.

    The overnight rain had stopped to leave drying conditions along the Alsace region’s most entertaining and action-packed stretches of asphalt. Loeb led from the off, quickest by 3.9 seconds on the opener.

    Reaching the start of the second stage, he had a moment of nostaligia. “This is the first stage I drove in rallying,” he said. “This is where I made my debut.”

    The road in the Firstplan stage had changed little in the last 13 years, but the Frenchman’s pace down the 16.58 kilometres was considerably more rapid than it had been when he wheeled out his Peugeot 106 all those years ago.

    “I forgot about that quickly,” said Loeb at the end of the stage - he was fastest again, by the way. “The road was slippery and I had to concentrate!” Loeb reeled off two more fastest times on SS3 and SS4 to arrive at the mid-point remote service in Mulhouse 14.7 seconds out front. For now, everything is going to plan for the Frenchman.

    And everything was certainly going to plan for Citroen, with C4 WRCs filling the first four places. Sebastien Ogier is second and already engaging in another battle with C4 privateer Petter Solberg, who was just 4.6 seconds behind after the first four.

    “I am flat out,” said Ogier, “but I was losing some time in some places. The first stage was quite slippery in some places, quite tricky.”

    Running fourth on the road, Solberg was already thinking about improving that for the second day. “We have to get a better place on the road for tomorrow,” he said. “The road is dirty for us. I was getting a lot of understeer in the corners, after just three cars there is a lot of mud on the road.”

    Sordo’s tale was a similar one, starting one place behind Solberg, the conditions were even tougher for the Spaniard in the Citroen Total World Rally Team C4. “I’m not confident,” said Sordo. “I can’t find the confidence because I can’t find the grip. I can’t read the road the way I want to.”

    First of the non-Citroen’s was Jari-Matti Latvala, who ended his morning in the best fashion realistically possible - second quickest to Loeb. The Focus-driving Finn was just five seconds off the back of Sordo, but almost half a minute down on Loeb. Latvala admitted to a couple of small mistakes and a struggle to find the faith in his Ford. It was a similar story in the sister Focus of Hirvonen, who was a distant sixth, more than a minute down at lunchtime.

    Read More: wrc.com/Friday Midday Wrap


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    SS5





    Jari-Matti Latvala set the fastest time through the repeated Hohlansbourg - ending Sebastien Loeb's clean sweep of stage wins and narrowing the gap to fourth placed Dani Sordo.

    Latvala, running third in Friday’s start order, now trails Sordo by just 3.7sec. At the stage end, Sordo said that he lost time with a mistake in the final section.

    Compared to the earlier pass (as SS1) the road was drier, but numerous damp sections and dirt dragged onto the road kept grip levels inconsistent. As before, all WRC drivers elected to fit Pirelli’s soft-compound PZero tyres.

    With a rally lead of 13.2sec, rally leader Sebastien Loeb admitted he had adopted a more cautious approach than earlier. “It was very, very muddy so I took it a bit easy with no big risks. I drove to how I was feeling - I hope it will be okay,” he said.

    World Touring Car ace Yvan Muller failed to start the stage after picking up a mechanical problem with his ex Petter Solberg Citroen Xsara. The car’s engine stopped on the road section between SS4 and the remote service at Mulhouse. Muller retired but hopes to re-start on Saturday.

    Click: wrc.com/News SS5

    ----------------------

    SS6





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    SS7





    After Jari-Matti Latvala's attack on SS5, Dani Sordo put his foot down on the two stages which followed - extending the gap to the chasing Finn and moving from fourth to second place.

    After relaxing a little on SS5, Sebastien Loeb was back to his stage winning best on SS6 with his Citroen Total team-mate his closest rival. Sordo’s time was enough to move him ahead of Petter Solberg into third place.

    Better was to come on SS7, however, when an outright stage win for Sordo edged him ahead of his Citroen rival Sebastien Ogier and into second - 21.2sec behind Loeb.

    Latvala meanwhile was sixth and fifth fastest on SS5 and SS6, to hold fifth place in the overall standings.

    Click: wrc.com/News SS7

    ---------------------

    End of Day 1

    SS8




    Huge numbers of spectators meant Friday's final stage began almost one hour late, but for stage winner Jari-Matti Latvala it was certainly worth the wait.

    After trailing in the wake of the four leading Citroens on SS6 and SS7, Latvala rediscovered his SS5 stage winning form and set the fastest time through the repeated Grand Ballon by 4.2sec.

    At the stage end, Latvala said the twisty and muddy conditions which had led others to adopt a cautious approach had actually suited his Ford Focus RS WRC. “It seems that if it’s narrow and slippery everything works well,” he explained.

    Latvala’s performance moved him up to fourth place, at the expense of Petter Solberg, and drew praise from Dani Sordo, who was third fastest through.

    Mikko Hirvonen leapt from his car at the finish control to check his car’s front suspension. The Ford had a broken wheel but no serious damage. “We were lucky,” said Hirvonen. “We hit the mountain on one corner and then went off again straight after. From then on we took it steady.”

    Sebastien Loeb set the second fastest time to maintain the overall rally lead. The Frenchman will carry a 22.7sec lead into Saturday’s competition.

    Click: wrc/News SS8


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    PWRC



    Defending Production Car World Rally Champion Armindo Araujo leads the class at the end of the opening day - the Mitsubishi driver enjoying a near-minute gap which belies the close competition which marked the opening day of Rallye de France.

    Araujo’s closest competitor on the previous asphalt round of the P-WRC, Hayden Paddon was fastest away from the start this morning. Once again, the rapid Kiwi driver put aside his absence of asphalt experience to turn in an inspired drive on ever-changing conditions.

    The New Zealander’s Pirelli Star Driver Mitsubishi was fastest on the first three stages, building a handy 11.4-second lead over Araujo. That advantage went south on the Grand Ballon test, where he suffered a front-right puncture five kilometres before the end of the stage. “There were loads of rocks and mud in the road, the puncture could have come from anything,” said Paddon. “I’d never driven on anything like that before.”

    Worse was to come for Paddon who posted further fastest times in the afternoon before retiring from day one with alternator failure at the end of SS7.

    Araujo’s hopes of catching Paddon in the early part of the loop were hit by the drier-than-expected weather which meant his softly-suspended Lancer wasn’t offering as much grip as it might through the first four stages.

    Click: wrc.com/News PWRC

    -------------------------

    SWRC

    Eyvind Brynildsen will take a narrow lead of the Super 2000 World Rally Championship category into day two of Rallye de France after completing Friday's eight stages 4.6 seconds in front of fellow Skoda Fabia driver Patrik Sandell.

    The young Norwegian reckoned he lost 25 seconds when he went wide on a right-hander on stage two and swiped the rear left corner of his car on a retaining barrier. He also spun on stage three and had to reverse to get pointed in the right direction. However, there were no such problems in the afternoon, although he was unable to prevent the flying Sandell from eroding his advantage.

    “I was a bit too slow at the start but it has been a good afternoon for me and now I am really close to Eyvind,” said Sandell, who lost time on stage four when his brakes faltered five kilometres from the end of run. “There is definitely more left to come from us tomorrow.”

    Michal Kosciuszko completes a Skoda podium lockout after surviving a spin at a hairpin on stage three. The Polish driver is 5.2s clear of Finn Jari Ketomaa, who can clinch the inaugural S-WRC title by winning in France and again on Rally GB in mid-November.

    Apart from two short tests before the start, Friday’s stages provided the Finn with his first opportunity to drive a rally car on Tarmac. “It’s difficult because you know exactly where to put the car on gravel, where to brake, things like that, but not so on Tarmac,” said Ketomaa. “I know I have got a very good car but I have not got the experience to really attack. I am on the safe side.”

    It has been a frustrating day for the joint title leaders Xevi Pons and Martin Prokop. Spaniard Pons reported being too cautious in the morning and, as a result, completed day one in fifth overall in his Ford Fiesta.

    Click: wrc.com/News SWRC

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    Day 2

    SS9





    ---------------------

    SS10





    The second day of Rallye de France began like the first - with overcast skies and stages left damp by overnight rain.

    Conditions for the first two tests were extremely tricky, with a mixture of drying tarmac, wetter sections and a coating of slippery mud for those running further down the start order.

    Like Friday, the choice of tyres for the conditions was straightforward, with all WRC drivers electing to fit Pirelli PZeros in soft compound and carry just one spare.

    First in the start order, rally leader Sebastien Loeb had the cleanest road and made the most of it on SS9, winning the stage by 3.1 seconds from his team-mate Dani Sordo. The rest of the top six times mirrored the overall order so there were no position changes.

    Further back Kimi Raikkonen (seventh) dropped time after overshooting a junction, while Ken Block, who started the day 10th, picked up a 1m 40s time penalty for leaving service 10 minutes late when work to repair his Ford’s hydraulic system overran.

    Saturday’s second stage, SS10, was delayed by 25 minutes while organisers dealt with the huge crowds of spectators who had flocked to watch the action. Once underway, Loeb and Sordo were the pace-setters once again, with Sordo quickest by seven-tenths through the 15.5km test.

    Petter Solberg was third fastest, to move ahead of Jari-Matti Latvala into fourth overall.

    Citroen Junior team driver Kimi Raikkonen hit trouble halfway through the stage when he drove off the road and got his C4 WRC stuck in a ditch. The accident happened at low speed and the car is reportedly undamaged so Raikkonen should return on Sunday as a SupeRally entry.

    Click: wrc.com/News SS10


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    SS11





    Sebastien Loeb underlined his mastery of slippery asphalt with another stage win on SS11 - the longest stage of Rally de France - that pulled him another 18 seconds clear at the head of the leaderboard.

    With his lead over second placed Dani Sordo up to 43 seconds, Loeb said he was relieved to have cleared the toughest stage of the rally so far. “I’m here - that’s the most important thing,” he said. “That was very tricky, very fast and narrow with aquaplaning. It was difficult. I made no mistakes but there was no big push.”

    Sordo was second quickest, despite a stall on the start line, with Petter Solberg, who missed a junction, rounding off the top three.

    Sebastien Ogier arrived at the stage end with damage to the front right corner of his Citroen C4 WRC but left for stage 12 without offering any explanation. Jari-Matti Latvala’s Ford also sported damage to its left rear corner - a result of sliding wide into some logs.

    Citroen Junior team driver Kimi Raikkonen set the eighth fastest time. The Finn seemed destined for the SupeRally list after driving into a ditch on previous test but eventually managed to get his car back on the road. Kimi’s car was undamaged in the incident but it took 35 minutes before enough spectators were on the scene to free it.

    Touring car ace Yvan Muller lost more than 13 minutes after damaging a wheel and brake caliper in the stage.

    Click: wrc.com/News SS11


    ---------------------

    SS12





    The second morning of the Rallye de France may have been wet and miserable, but it certainly didn't rain on Sebastien Loeb's parade.

    Once again the local hero set the pace on the opening loop of four stages, winning two of them, cheered on by thousands of drenched but enthusiastic supporters.

    Loeb’s success this year has meant that he has nearly always been first on the road, and while most of the time this is a definite disadvantage, this morning it worked definitely in his favour. With the drivers behind him cutting the corners on the vineyard stages, the roads soon became filthy: even Dani Sordo running only in second reported the surfaces to be more reminiscent of a skating rink.

    Consequently, Loeb was able to stretch his advantage to 42.6s over Sordo by just past the halfway point of the rally, after SS12.

    With the name on the winner (and the champion’s) trophy this year seemingly pre-ordained, the fight for the podium remains intriguingly open, with Citroen drivers Sordo and Sebastien Ogier swapping seconds while Petter Solberg and Ford’s Jari-Matti Latvala keep a watching brief, with every chance of crashing Citroen’s house party.

    Ogier conceded that Sordo was faster than him, having been beaten by the Spaniard on all four stages this morning, but the battle behind Loeb’s 2011 team mate could go either way.

    Solberg was past Latvala for fourth on the second stage of the day, but the Finn fought back with a fastest time on SS12. Latvala is now just 7.5 seconds behind Solberg, having hit some logs on SS11.

    The Ford driver is nearly two minutes clear of his team mate Mikko Hirvonen, who was still at a loss to explain his curious lack of pace on roads that he cannot quite find a good feeling with. Now that the Ford of Federico Villagra is more than six minutes behind in sixth, Hirvonen is having a somewhat lonely rally.

    Read More: wrc.com/Midday Wrap


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    Last edited by Weasel 555; 10-02-2010 at 04:08 AM.
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    SS13




    --------------------

    SS14





    Citroen Junior team driver Sebastien Ogier bagged his first Rallye de France stage win on SS13, the first test after the midday service, but hit trouble on the stage which followed, losing 25 seconds with a broken front damper mount.

    In contrast to the damp morning loop, conditions were almost dry for the afternoon repeat and slippery mud was not so much of an issue. Ogier, running third on the road, capitalised on the cleaner conditions to end Loeb’s run of stage wins and beat his namesake by 0.5sec.

    But Ogier hit trouble in the closing kilometres of the very next stage, the 15km Ungersberg, when one of his car’s front damper top mounts worked loose. The problem affected his C4’s steering and cost him 25 seconds to stage winner Dani Sordo.

    With two more stages to run before the end of day service, Ogier’s third place is under serious threat from the man now just 4.7 seconds behind him, Petter Solberg.

    Sebastien Loeb was fourth fastest through SS14 to maintain an overall rally lead of 35.8 seconds.

    Click: wrc.com/News SS14



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    Last edited by Weasel 555; 10-02-2010 at 07:26 AM.
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    Double retirement for the Citroen Juniors

    After the cleaner conditions of the previous two stages, things turned messy again on the repeated 35km Pays d'Ormont - a mud covered monster that brought about the retirement of both Citroen Junior team drivers.

    First to go was Sebastien Ogier, who stopped 7.6 kilometres from the start when his damper problem took a serious turn for the worse and the top mount punched through the bonnet. His exit promoted Citroen privateer Petter Solberg - the stage winner - into third place overall.

    Ogier’s Junior team-mate Kimi Raikkonen bowed out soon after by drifting wide and beaching his C4 WRC off the road at the 8.5km mark. Raikkonen and co-driver Kaj Lindstrom were uninjured in the slow-speed crash but are out of Saturday’s competition.

    Ford drivers Mikko Hirvonen and Jari-Matti Latvala appeared to revel in the slippery conditions, setting the second and third fastest times respectively - their best team performance of the rally.

    Fourth fastest through SS15, rally leader Sebastien Loeb was two minutes slower than he had been in the morning but was relieved to have cleared the stage in one piece. “I knew it would be bad, but in places it was almost undriveable,” he said. “I was as happy to finish the stage as I am when I finish a rally!”

    Click: wrc.com/News SS15


    -------------------------

    End of Day 2

    SS16






    Jari-Matti Latvala's chances of stealing third place from Petter Solberg took a knock on Saturday's final stage, when a spin close to the start helped his rival pull further ahead.

    Ford driver Latvala began the stage 12 seconds adrift of Solberg but ended the day trailing by 20 seconds.

    “We had no heat in the tyres and I drifted wide on the second right-hand corner,” Latvala explained. “We got two wheels onto the gravel and I didn’t want to risk accelerating out of it so we spun. We stalled and then had to reverse a number of times to get pointing in the right way - that’s what cost us the time.”

    Latvala acknowledged that Petter would now be difficult to catch on the 57km which remain on Sunday but defended his approach. “I had to try,” he said.

    Spurred on by the chasing Latvala, Solberg was the stage winner, followed by Mikko Hirvonen (+3sec) and Dani Sordo (+3.7sec). Sebastien Loeb was fourth fastest to take a Rally lead of 42.8sec into Sunday’s decisive four stages.

    Click: wrc.com/News SS16


    ------------------------

    Saturday Wrap



    Sebastien Loeb continues to dominate Rallye de France in his Citroen Total World Rally Team C4 WRC after completing Saturday's eight stages with a lead of 42.8s over team-mate Dani Sordo.

    Loeb recorded two fastest stage times during the day, including a scintillating run through the first 35.48-kilometre Pays d’Ormont stage, when he went almost 20 seconds faster than any of his rivals.

    Although the early morning rain rescinded, the stages remained damp and treacherous due to the amount of mud and debris that had been dragged onto the road.

    “It’s been another good but difficult day,” said Loeb. “We’ve managed to set some good times and now have a good lead although there is still a long way to go. It was an advantage being first on the road although it still was not easy.”

    But while the 36-year-old Frenchman edges closer to his seventh world title following another impressive display, Citroen’s hopes of a podium lockout suffered a blow when Sebastien Ogier, in the make’s Junior Team entry, stopped when a top suspension mount broke on stage 14.

    Ogier had tried to fashion a repair after the stage in an effort to soldier on to overnight service in Strasbourg. But when the top mount punched through his car’s bonnet on the monster 35.48-kilometre Pays d’Ormont test Ogier was forced to retire. However, he is due to restart under SupeRally regulations on Sunday.

    His misfortune promoted Petter Solberg into third with Jari-Matti Latvala climbing to fourth in the lead factory Ford Focus. Solberg was happier with the handling of his privately-run Citroen after fitting a new front differential at final service on Friday. However, he wasn’t entirely satisfied with his performance, even though his fastest run through the second pass of the Pays d’Ormont and Salm test meant he was able to extend his advantage over Latvala.

    Read More: wrc.com/Saturday Wrap


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    Portuguese driver Armindo Araujo has enjoyed a near-perfect day aboard his Mitsubishi Lancer Evolution as he tip-toes his way through Rallye de France.

    Araujo, the defending Production Car World Rally Champion, started the day with a minute lead over second-placed driver Anders Grondal (Subaru Impreza WRX). With everything to lose, Araujo set about the exceptionally tricky roads to the south of the event’s Strasbourg base at a brisk but sensible pace.

    After spending last night solving the set-up issues he’d had through day one, Araujo’s approach to day two was all about survival. “That is the most important thing,” he said. “It’s vital that we get to the end of the event. Everything has gone well today. I am happy with the way the car is set up, it’s running very well and not too soft like it had been yesterday. The roads have been incredible today, just incredible. On the second run through the long stage, it was astonishing.”

    Araujo had been fastest through the first running of the event’s longest test - the 35-kilometre Pays d’Ormont stage - but he was forced to give best to Grondal second time through. Araujo was a minute and a half slower the second time through the stage, so bad were the conditions.

    Despite dropping 28 seconds to Grondal in SS15, Araujo was still comfortably ahead at the end of the second day. “I feel quite confident,” said Araujo. “Yes, the roads are slippery, but it’s okay. We didn’t make any mistakes, we kept our lines clean and everything is good. Now let’s see tomorrow.”

    Grondal’s only problem was a spin in the 12th stage of the event. He added: “I’m happy. It’s been no problems today.”

    Read More: wrc.com/News PWRC

    -------------------------

    SWRC



    Patrik Sandell emerged from the final stage of day two of Rallye de France with the lead of the Super 2000 World Rally Championship category after Eyvind Brynildsen hit trouble late on.

    The Norwegian started the last stage of the day 21 seconds clear of Sandell following a hugely impressive performance in his Skoda Fabia S2000. But a front-left puncture, which he picked up approximately halfway through the 13.09-kilometre test, cost him 35 seconds and the lead of S-WRC heading into Sunday’s final four stages.

    “It was a slow puncture but it’s not a problem because I will beat him tomorrow,” said Brynildsen. “I’ve worked too hard today to lose like this. I won’t accept it.”

    Brynildsen had led thro3ughout the day despite suffering a spin on the first Pays d’Ormont stage, where he also survived a trip into a ditch and briefly ended up on two wheels. “I had a good pace in Germany and a good test here on Monday so I was confident that I could do well,” said Brynildsen. “Everything has been working fine with the car so things are looking good.”

    Sandell, who suffered two spins on stage 11, added: “I lost 20 seconds to Eyvind by spinning. They were my mistakes and I was determined to fight back after that. We changed the dampers a bit in service to stop the car from rolling so much and I pushed hard in the afternoon and found a good rhythm. The gap is not very big so I will be trying very hard tomorrow.”

    Jari Ketomaa remains in contention for the S-WRC title by completing the second day of his first asphalt rally in third overall in his Shanghai FCACA Rally Team Fiesta, which was filling with water in the morning loop after the Finn damaged the floor of the car briefly going off the road on stage 11.

    “I’m just training to gain the experience and avoid making any mistakes,” said Ketomaa, a winner of three S-WRC rounds so far this season.

    Read More: wrc.com/News SWRC

    ----------------------

    JWRC



    The battle for Junior world championship glory on Rallye de France was turned on its head during a dramatic second day's action in the Alsace, which wildcard entrant Jeremi Ancian completed with a shock overall lead.

    Runaway overnight leader Thierry Neuville was first to fall when he suffered a front-left puncture following contact with a large rock on stage 11. The Belgian had gone quickest on the day’s first and second stages to build a lead of more than one minute in his Citroen C2 Super 1600.

    But it wasn’t to last after he hit trouble five kilometres into stage 11. “We touched something, a rock I think, after taking a big cut,” said Neuville. “At first there was nothing but then I realised we had a slow puncture. We drove for two kilometres before we stopped and changed. We lost three minutes and maybe we should have stopped sooner.”

    Hans Weijs Jr made the most of Neuville’s delay to move into the lead, which he gradually extended as the day progressed before suffering a puncture of his own on a rock, hidden in a deep cut, approximately nine kilometres from the end of the day’s penultimate test. Ancian, Mathieu Arzeno and the recovering Neuville all had moments through the corner with only Ancian emerging from the stage with a full set of inflated tyres.

    “We were lucky because we managed to get back on the road without any problem,” said Ancian, a one-time adversary of former Junior world champion Sebastien Ogier. “It was an incredible sight to see so many cars off but we managed to stay alive.”

    As a result of all the drama, Ancian, who damaged the front-right corner of his Suzuki Swift Super 1600 when he went off the road after the flying finish of stage 12, takes a lead of 1m41.3s over Weijs Jr into Sunday’s final four stages. Neuville is third with Arzeno fourth having led the rally on Friday morning.

    Read More: wrc.com/News JWRC


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    Last edited by Weasel 555; 10-02-2010 at 12:30 PM.
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