Loeb remains in P1 on Rally Finland
29 July 2011
Sebastien Loeb continues to lead Rally Finland following the morning loop - and remarkably the gap to Sebastien Ogier remains exactly the same as it was last night, 2.8 seconds.
Loeb, who grabbed the lead yesterday in SS2, was third in the opening test this morning, the 20.35 kilometre-run through Hassi. The Frenchman then went second in SS5, to extend his cushion to 4.9 seconds. However he was 'only' fourth in SS6, which allowed Ogier to close back up in the sister works DS3 WRC car.
“I am pushing very hard,” Loeb said in service C. “It is a very tight fight with Ogier and Jari-Matti. In the last stage there was a lot of gravel. I'm on the limit everywhere. I can't do better.”
“It is difficult to make a difference, especially with Seb. He is always very difficult to beat,” Ogier added. “We tried to push but the conditions are very similar for everybody. I am happy with this morning [though]. I want to continue like this and try and stay in contact with him. If we can stay close to him it will be perfect for tomorrow.”
Jari-Matti Latvala meanwhile remains third, although he has slipped back slightly and is now 6.6 seconds off P2 and 9.4 seconds off the lead: “My driving wasn't perfect but I pushed hard and I'm happy with the morning,” said the Ford Abu Dhabi WRT man. “I was a little frustrated with my performance on the first two stages, but much happier on the last one. I raised the height of the car at the back but I didn't like it so I changed it back again. I made the dampers softer to improve the traction, but I don't want to go too soft because the car will lose stability.”
Petter Solberg now lies fourth, 18 seconds adrift off P3, and a similar amount up on Jari Ketomaa, who has slipped back behind the Norwegian due to a lack of grip. Still fifth is a very respectable position for the Finn given his inexperience with the Fiesta RS WRC. Mads Ostberg was another mover this morning and is now sixth, ahead of the Mini WRC cars of Dani Sordo and Kris Meeke, the former having lost time with a misfire.
SWRC runners Juho Hanninen and Ott Tanak round out the top ten, with Matt Wilson eleventh followed by Evgeny Novikov, Henning Solberg and Kimi Raikkonen in positions 12 through to 14. Raikkonen had a big moment in the final stage when he misheard a pacenote, but was able to keep going. Wilson also had a scare in SS6, but he too lived to fight another day.
Of the rest, Mikko Hirvonen won all three stages this morning to show what might have been, but for that problem on Thursday, which meant he started today down in 36th position. He now lies 15th and is eager to try and climb back into the points.
“A top 10 finish is possible at the very least,” said Hirvonen. ”I can't catch the top three drivers on pace alone now, but I don't want to think about yesterday. It happened, and now I just want to drive as fast as I can and see how high I can climb. I hope it doesn't rain because my road position is perfect in the dry and I will lose that advantage if it becomes wet. I made changes to my pace notes on the last stage because they were too slow, so I hope I will be faster during the second pass.”
The action now continues this afternoon, with five stages on the bill. SS7, the 13.68 kilometre Koukunmaa test, starts at 14.59 hours local time [12.59 hours British time].
Rally Finland: Overall standings after Stage 6 (Top 10):
1. Sebastien Loeb Citroen Total WRT DS3 WRC 50mins 57.1secs M
2. Sebastien Ogier Citroen Total WRT DS3 WRC +00mins 02.8secs M
3. Jari-Matti Latvala Ford Abu Dhabi WRT Fiesta RS WRC +00mins 09.4secs M
4. Petter Solberg PSWRT Citroen DS3 WRC +00mins 27.4secs M
5. Jari Ketomaa HJ-Autotalo.com Ford Fiesta RS WRC +00mins 44.5secs
6. Mads Ostberg M-Sport Stobart Ford Fiesta RS WRC +00mins 54.0secs M
7. Dani Sordo Mini WRT John Cooper Works +00mins 58.6secs M
8. Kris Meeke Mini WRT John Cooper Works +01mins 06.6secs M
9. Juho Hanninen Red Bull Skoda Fabia S2000 +01mins 08.5secs S
10. Ott Tanak Ford Fiesta S2000 +01mins 14.7secs S
11. Matthew Wilson M-Sport Stobart Ford Fiesta RS WRC +01mins 30.9secs M
12. Evgeny Novikov M-Sport Stobart Ford Fiesta RS WRC +01mins 38.4secs
13. Henning Solberg M-Sport Stobart Ford Fiesta RS WRC +01mins 40.8secs
14. Kimi Raikkonen ICE1 Racing Citroen DS3 WRC +01mins 42.2secs M
15. Mikko Hirvonen Ford Abu Dhabi WRT Fiesta RS WRC +01mins 46.2secs M
17. Dennis Kuipers FERM Powertools Ford Fiesta RS WRC +02mins 15.3secs M
18. Andreas Mikkelsen VW Motorsport Skoda Fabia S2000 +02mins 37.4secs
19. PG Andersson Subaru Impreza R4 +02mins 56.6secs
22. Armindo Araujo Motorsport Italia Mini John Cooper Works +03mins 27.6secs
24. Khalid Al-Qassimi Team Abu Dhabi Ford Fiesta RS WRC +03mins 33.7secs M
31. Joonas Lindroos VW Motorsport Skoda Fabia S2000 +04mins 52.0secs
SWRC standings after Stage 6 (Top 3):
1. Juho Hanninen Red Bull Skoda Fabia S2000 52mins 05.6secs S
2. Ott Tanak Ford Fiesta S2000 +00mins 06.2secs S
3. Martin Prokop Ford Fiesta S2000 +00mins 40.8secs S
PWRC standings after Stage 6 (Top 3):
1. Patrik Flodin Subaru Impreza WRX STi 54mins 12.9secs P
2. Hayden Paddon Subaru Impreza WRX STi +00mins 13.4secs P
3. Mikko Pajunen Renault Clio R3 +00mins 50.3secs P
SS2. Matti Rantanen Mini John Cooper Works Off the road
all times unofficial