Motorsport News - Rally
Sebastien Loeb holds off Mikko Hirvonen
6th August 2012
After starting the day leading the overall standings by just over 7s, Sbastien Loeb and Daniel Elena were put under pressure by Mikko Hirvonen and Jarmo Lehtinen throughout day two. Although unable to wrestle the lead from them, the Finns cut their stable-mates lead to 5s. The Citron Total WRT crews are set to resume their battle tomorrow in the final sprint.
This second leg featured a total of 133 kilometres, broken down into nine timed stages and concentrated on roads around Jyvskyl. The sun had been up for a while as the first competitors lined up at the start of Urria (SS4), at 7.42am. Wasting no time in showing his intention, rally leader Sbastien Loeb started the day with a stage win. It didnt take long, however, for Mikko Hirvonen to respond: by the end of Jukojrvi, one of his favourites stages, the local lad had closed the gap to his team-mate to under five seconds.
After the first service period of the day, racing resumed with a loop of three stages. Somewhat forgetting the rallys other leading contenders, Seb and Mikko enjoyed a stunning one-on-one scrap. Despite winning the Mkkiper and Lankamaa stages, Hirvonen lost another six tenths to Loeb! Im just going to have to push even harder, warned the Finn before the days second 30-minute service period. I know Seb will respond to my attacks, but I must stay in touch if I want to be in with a chance of winning.
Things werent made any easier by the handling of the car: the rear differential overheated when the oil drained off after losing a cap, explained the eight-time World Champion. Its great that the two Citrons are fighting it out for victory. The others are not far behind in terms of out-and-out performance, but they are less consistent and have dropped a few seconds on certain stages. In any case, as things stand, we certainly cant afford to relax at all!
The day continued with a second run on the loop of three stages. This time, the advantage was held by Mikko Hirvonen, who cut the deficit to three seconds before the super special stage around the Killeri racecourse. However, the Finn then lost two seconds on the days final test: A faulty sensor meant I had to keep declutching to move up the gears. We lost a few tenths but we are still very much in contention to win the rally. With two runs on the Ouninpohja test tomorrow, the craziest part is still to come!
I dont think we let our level drop at all today, said a breathless Sbastien Loeb. You can only keep going at this kind of pace if you have absolute faith in the car. And once again, the DS3 WRC was perfect. Im ready for the final battle tomorrow. I have been leading since the first stage, and I am determined to stay where I am right to the end!
I think that our crews have served up some spectacular racing for the crowds, commented Yves Matton, Citron Racing Team Principal. Although we could ask the guys to make sure of a fourth consecutive one-two, we are going to let Seb and Mikko continue their battle. Weve only just passed the rallys half-way stage and our rivals are only twenty-odd seconds behind. Seb has led from the outset. His relaxed approach has helped him to push when he feels right, but Mikko has put together his rally with this final day very much in mind. We all hope that well be celebrating another one-two tomorrow evening!
NEUVILLE AND ATKINSON STOPPED IN THEIR TRACKS
The two other Citron DS3 WRCs taking part in this rally were unable to complete the days stages after going off. First of all, Chris Atkinson lost 16 minutes after making a mistake on SS8. I misheard a pace note and turned right on a crest instead of left thinking I was at the next corner, recounted the Australian, who remained in the race after repairs at the service park. The Qatar World Rally Team driver was unable to continue today, however, after severely damaging one the wheels when he hit a rock on the racing line on SS10.
Whilst fighting to regain fifth position from Mads stberg, Thierry Neuville also went off on SS11: There was a loud noise in the car after we hit the same rock as Chris on the previous stage. I couldnt really hear what Nicolas was saying to me and we ended up rolling at low speed on a tight bend. Obviously, Im disappointed, as it had been going well up to that point.
The two crews will rejoin the rally under Rally2 rules tomorrow.
TAGGED AS : , WRC, World Rally Championship, Rally Finland, Sebastien Loeb, Loeb, Elena, Citroen DS3, Hirvonen, Lehtinen, Latvala, Anttila, Ford Fiesta RS, Solberg, Patterson, M Ostberg, J Andersson, Tnak, K Sikk, Rantanen, M Lukka, J Ketomaa, M Stenberg, M Prokop, Z Hrůza, S Ogier, J Ingrassia, Skoda Fabia S2000, motorsport news, rally news, Citroen Total WRT,
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