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Loeb poised for victory in Mexico - again
10 March 2012
Citroen's Sebastien Loeb looks well placed to win Rally Mexico following Saturday's second leg and if all goes well on Sunday, he will maintain a run that has seen him take 'gold' in Leon every single year since 2006.
Loeb began day two with an 11.2 second lead and although team-mate, Mikko Hirvonen managed to cut the margin initially this morning, the Frenchman soon re-asserted his authority. Indeed he stretched the gap to 18.2 seconds in SS14, before then gaining even more time in SS15 and SS16. Loeb started the final loop 28.7 seconds in front, but pushed on and will now take a 36.2 second cushion into the third and final day: “It's a comfortable situation, but we still have a long way to go,” Loeb said post-SS20.
Jari-Matti Latvala meanwhile is 'best of the rest' behind the two Citroens, although his day has not been without dramas. He hit another rock in SS15 and lost around 50 seconds. That briefly dropped him back to fourth, but he re-took third in the next stage and now lies 17.9 seconds up on his team-mate, Petter Solberg: “It is really, really good to see so much competition. The feeling is really, really good. Today's problems were mainly because I was trying too hard,” Latvala conceded.
“We've had a good day,” Solberg added. “We got a nail through the tyre on the long stage. We have had a lot of bad luck but the whole team is behind us and we have had a lot of fun too. Let's see what happens tomorrow.”
Behind the works Fords, Mads Ostberg is fifth in his Adapta WRT-run Fiesta RS WRC. Ostberg started the day ahead of Latvala and Solberg, but was unable to keep the position. He also had a scare at the end of the day, and like a number of drivers', reported that rocks were being placed on the road in Camanjilla 2: “It was one kilometre before the end of the stage, big rocks being thrown by four or five people. We tried to avoid them but it was dangerous,” he confirmed.
Further back, M-Sport Ford WRT's Ott Tanak is sixth, with Nasser Al-Attiyah moving up into seventh in SS20 - the final stage of the day - when Evgeny Novikov broke a wheel and went out. Novikov had been running in seventh, a position he had held since mid-day on Friday.
Of the rest, WRC Team MINI Portugal man Arminado Araujo lies eighth, with Sebastien Ogier ninth in his VW Motorsport-run Skoda Fabia S2000 and Ken Block tenth. Benito Guerra is just outside the top ten in P11 and still comfortably on course for the PWRC class win.
In terms of notable retirements, in addition to Novikov, Chris Atkinson was also forced out. The Aussie went off the road after he had passed the flying finish for SS16. It was later confirmed that brake problems were to blame. Atkinson, who had been in eighth, will re-start tomorrow under Rally 2.
The event now concludes on Sunday and the final day includes just four stages, although one test - SS22, Guanajuatito – is 54.30 kilometres long, so there could yet be a sting in the tail...
Rally Mexico: Overall standings after Stage 20 (Top 10):
1. Sebastien Loeb Citroen Total WRT DS3 WRC 3hours 25mins 17.5secs M
2. Mikko Hirvonen Citroen Total WRT DS3 WRC +00mins 36.2secs M
3. Jari-Matti Latvala Ford WRT Fiesta RS WRC +01mins 53.0secs M
4. Petter Solberg Ford WRT Fiesta RS WRC +02mins 10.9secs M
5. Mads Ostberg Adapta WRT Fiesta RS WRC +02mins 44.2secs M
6. Ott Tanak M-Sport Ford WRT Fiesta RS WRC +04mins 22.1secs M
7. Nasser Al-Attiyah Qatar WRT Citroen DS3 WRC +06mins 00.8secs M
8. Armindo Araujo WRC MINI Team Portugal John Cooper Works WRC +10mins 42.1secs
9. Sebastien Ogier VW Motorsport Skoda Fabia S2000 +12mins 02.7secs
10. Ken Block Monster WRT Fiesta RS WRC +13mins 51.8secs
11. Benito Guerra Mitsubishi Lancer Evo X +18mins 42.0secs P
12. Ricardo Trivino Ford Fiesta RS WRC +18mins 48.4secs
PWRC standings after Stage 20 - Top 3:
1. Benito Guerra Mitsubishi Lancer Evo X 3hours 43mins 59.5secs P
2. Nicolas Fuchs Mitsubishi Lancer Evo IX +02mins 36.7secs P
3. Gianluca Linari Subaru Impreza STi +18mins 25.6secs P
DNS. Henning Solberg Go Fast Energy WRT Fiesta RS WRC Did not start
SS5. Paulo Nobre WRC MINI Team Portugal John Cooper Works WRC Accident*
SS5/SS6. Kevin Abbring VW Motorsport Skoda Fabia S2000 Mechanical*
SS6. Thierry Neuville Citroen Junior WRT DS3 WRC Lost a wheel M*
SS14. Paulo Nobre WRC MINI Team Portugal John Cooper Works WRC Accident
SS16. Kevin Abbring VW Motorsport Skoda Fabia S2000 Mechanical
SS16. Chris Atkinson Monster WRT Fiesta RS WRC Brake failure*
SS20. Evgeny Novikov M-Sport Ford WRT Fiesta RS WRC Lost a wheel M
* re-started/will re-start under Rally 2 (new name for SupeRally)
all times unofficial