SS12: Loeb flies through the ruts in Sweden
Sebastien Loeb has made light work of the ruts that dogged several leading crews through the rerun of the Lesjofors stage on Rally Sweden by setting the fastest time on the test.
The Citroen DS3 WRC ace was more than six seconds faster than Ford Fiesta RS WRC pilot Jari-Matti Latvala with Sebastien Ogier third quickest in another factory DS3 WRC.
“We had no problem in this stage, no puncture,” said Loeb. “It’s getting better but we’re still far behind.”
Latvala suffered a brief spin two kilometres from the end of stage 12: “Honestly it’s been the quickest spin in my life. I can drive faster when I am in the ruts and it’s something I have been practicing a lot during the testing in December.”
SS13: Loeb quickest as Hirvonen spins
The battle for victory on Rally Sweden has been turned on its head after leader Mikko Hirvonen spun his Ford Fiesta RS WRC.
The Finn ended up pointing in the wrong direction and had to drive the wrong way on the stage to find a place to turn around. As a result his lead over Mads Ostberg has been trimmed to 0.6s.
“I spun in a very fast place and had to drive in the wrong direction to find a place to turn around,” said Hirvonen. “It makes it very more exciting now I guess.”
SS14: Stage win for Citroen star Ogier
Mikko Hirvonen has opened up a slender 6.2s advantage on Rally Sweden following the second run through the Fredriksberg stage.
And there was more good news for the factory Ford squad when Hirvonen’s team-mate Jari-Matti Latvala closed to within 7.8s of the lead, 1.6s behind second-placed Mads Ostberg with the third fastest time through the stage.
“I’m quite satisfied for that,” said Latvala. “I was concentrating to keep the car in the ruts and the ruts were cleaning a little bit by the guys in front.”
The Citroen Total World Rally Team also had plenty to celebrate when Sebastien Ogier went fastest through the stage in his Citroen DS3 WRC, 3.3s quicker than team-mate and seven-time world champion Sebastien Loeb managed. As a result, Ogier is 28.4s off top spot heading to stage 13.
“That was okay, there is nothing I can do, we just have to finish,” said Loeb, who remains in sixth overall, almost two minutes behind Ogier. “I am driving on a good rhythm but no big risks.”
SS15: Stage joy for Loeb as battle for victory heats up
Fifteen seconds will cover the top five drivers heading into Karlstad superspecial stage tonight following a sensational finish to the second Varmullsasen stage, the standings after which will be used to determine the starting order for day three of the event.
Ford Fiesta RS WRC driver Mikko Hirvonen leads Mads Ostberg by 7.5s with Petter Solberg 2.4s adrift in his Citroen DS3 WRC. Jari-Matti Latvala is a further 1.9s behind while Sebastien Ogier, who was second fastest through the stage, is 14.8s adrift of leader Hirvonen.
Defending world champion Sebastien Loeb set the pace through the stage but his delays on Friday means he is not in the fight for glory in Sweden.
Mikko Hirvonen, driving a Ford Fiesta RS WRC, moved in front when he demoted Mads Ostberg for the lead on stage 11 this morning. Despite a spin on the next test, Hirvonen has remained in front and will take a lead of 7.4s into day three of the world championship season-opener.
However, with Hirvonen, Mads Ostberg, Petter Solberg, Jari-Matti Latvala and Sebastien Ogier all covered by 15.8s, the fight for victory is set to go down to the event-closing Power Stage, which will be shown live around the world on television and will award bonus points to the fastest three drivers.
Finn Hirvonen will start first on the road on Sunday admits he might lose time cleaning a line for the drivers running behind, something Ostberg had to do today.
“Maybe I don’t have a chance but you never know,” said Hirvonen. “All I can do is go flat-out. It’s been so difficult today because all those drivers running after us on the national rally are making the line in completely the wrong place but they won’t be there tomorrow so maybe we can do it. I will just push as hard as I can.”
Ostberg started day two 14.8s up on Hirvonen but gradually slipped back as the day progressed.
“It’s been absolutely very difficult today,” said the M-Sport Stobart Fiesta driver. “I expected it to be a lot better on the second pass of the stages but it was a lot worse with all the ruts that had formed. That made it so frustrating but that’s how it is. I just have to stay calm and not do anything stupid, drive and push again.”
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