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Loeb to start final day in Finland in lead

29 July 2011

Sebastien Loeb has finished day two of Rally Finland at the head of the pack after the top-three runners all employed tactics in the final stage, leaving them split by just 2.6 seconds.

Loeb maintained his overnight advantage this morning, but on the afternoon loop slipped behind his team-mate, Sebastien Ogier in SS9. The 37-year-old then slipped further back in SS10 and started the final test 1.9 seconds adrift.

However in a bid to avoid having to run first on the road tomorrow, he checked in late at the start of SS11, thus incurring a 10-second penalty. Ogier however opted to slow in Mynnila to again slot in behind the Frenchman and with Jari-Matti Latvala adopting the same tactics, Loeb was handed back the lead.

The record breaking multiple WRC champion will now start on Saturday with a 1.5 second advantage - but crucially will have to sweep away the loose gravel, leaving Ogier and Latvala in second and third respectively both potentially better placed to win.

“We tried to do something to sow doubt in our rivals' minds,” Loeb explained. “It didn't work, but it hasn't really made our task a lot more difficult. We've still got a long leg to do. Since the start we've managed to match the pace of our rivals even though we're first out on the road. I just hope that I won't have to do even more sweeping tomorrow on the very dry stages.”

“I wanted a gap of no more than 10sec to the leader so the margin I have is ideal,” Latvala added. “I'm not a massive fan of tactics like this but it was exciting tonight and the team did a great job, for which I thank them. I know tomorrow's stages well and I'm so much looking forward to what I hope will be a great day.”

Petter Solberg meanwhile is fourth, albeit more than 30 seconds off the lead in his privately entered Citroen DS3 WRC.

“Today has been okay,” said Petter. “Nothing special to report, I have been pushing all day. Did some changes to the set up at midday service, but that did not work out. Will continue to try tomorrow. Have to mention that the atmosphere out on the stages is really good, so many people!”

Next up is M-Sport Stobart Ford man Mads Ostberg, a further 30 seconds back, followed by the recovering Mikko Hirvonen, who has charged back up from 36th this morning to sixth, having won five of the days eight stages.

“Today's stages were probably the easiest of the three legs and I'm pleased with my speed,” said Hirvonen. “I can't catch the top three drivers on pace alone, but I would like to catch Mads Ostberg for fifth. I decided not to think about yesterday. It happened, and today I just wanted to drive as fast as I could and see how high I could climb.

“I'm glad it didn't rain because my road position was perfect in the dry and I would have lost that advantage if it was wet. My start position won't be as good tomorrow, but still better than all the drivers ahead of me. I chose to carry a second spare tyre this afternoon and that affected the balance of the car. It slid more and tyre wear was greater, so perhaps it was a mistake to do that,” he added.

MINI WRC men Dani Sordo and Kris Meeke complete the top eight ahead of SWRC class leader, Juho Hanninen, Henning Solberg, Matt Wilson and F1 2007 world champion, Kimi Raikkonen in positions 9 through to 12.

There were a number of retirements today, most noticeably Jari Ketomaa, who had been running fifth until he rolled his privately entered Fiesta RS WRC in SS8.

The action now concludes on Saturday with 140.05 competitive kilometres on the bill - and eleven separate stages.

SS12, the 21.35 km-run through Leustu 1, begins at 07.58 hours local time [05.58 hours UK time].


Rally Finland: Overall standings after Stage 11 (Top 10):

1. Sebastien Loeb Citroen Total WRT DS3 WRC 1hour 29mins 01.3secs M
2. Sebastien Ogier Citroen Total WRT DS3 WRC +00mins 01.5secs M
3. Jari-Matti Latvala Ford Abu Dhabi WRT Fiesta RS WRC +00mins 02.6secs M
4. Petter Solberg PSWRT Citroen DS3 WRC +00mins 29.2secs M
5. Mads Ostberg M-Sport Stobart Ford Fiesta RS WRC +01mins 00.1secs M
6. Mikko Hirvonen Ford Abu Dhabi WRT Fiesta RS WRC +01mins 28.7secs M
7. Dani Sordo Mini WRT John Cooper Works +01mins 36.2secs
8. Kris Meeke Mini WRT John Cooper Works +01mins 51.0secs
9. Juho Hanninen Red Bull Skoda Fabia S2000 +02mins 04.0secs S
10. Henning Solberg M-Sport Stobart Ford Fiesta RS WRC +02mins 06.1secs


Others:

11. Matthew Wilson M-Sport Stobart Ford Fiesta RS WRC +02mins 16.9secs M
12. Kimi Raikkonen ICE1 Racing Citroen DS3 WRC +02mins 20.5secs M
13. Martin Prokop Ford Fiesta S2000 +03mins 21.7secs S
14. Dennis Kuipers FERM Powertools Ford Fiesta RS WRC +03mins 28.3secs M
15. Andreas Mikkelsen VW Motorsport Skoda Fabia S2000 +04mins 14.8secs
16. PG Andersson Subaru Impreza R4 +04mins 56.9secs
17. Khalid Al-Qassimi Team Abu Dhabi Ford Fiesta RS WRC +05mins 29.7secs M
18. Hermann Gassner Jr Skoda Fabia S2000 +05mins 43.8secs S
19. Ott Tanak Ford Fiesta S2000 +05mins 46.9secs S
20. Armindo Araujo Motorsport Italia Mini John Cooper Works +05mins 51.0secs


SWRC standings after Stage 11 (Top 3):

1. Juho Hanninen Red Bull Skoda Fabia S2000 1hour 31mins 05.3secs S
2. Martin Prokop Ford Fiesta S2000 +01mins 17.7secs S
3. Hermann Gassner Jr Skoda Fabia S2000 +03mins 39.8secs S


PWRC standings after Stage 11 (Top 3):

1. Hayden Paddon Subaru Impreza WRX STi 1hour 35mins 03.5secs P
2. Mikko Pajunen Renault Clio R3 +00mins 54.4secs P
3. Patrik Flodin Subaru Impreza WRX STi +01mins 06.6secs P


Notable retirements:

SS2. Matti Rantanen Mini John Cooper Works Off the road

SS4. Mattias Therman Mini John Cooper Works Off the road
SS8. Jari Ketomaa HJ-Autotalo.com Ford Fiesta RS WRC Off the road
SS8. Evgeny Novikov M-Sport Stobart Ford Fiesta RS WRC Stopped
SS8. Joonas Lindroos VW Motorsport Skoda Fabia S2000 Off the road


all times unofficial


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