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Loeb set for home win, ninth title
6 October 2012
Citroen's Sebastien Loeb looks in control at the end of day two of Rallye de France Alsace and with just one leg to go is poised to clinch his ninth WRC drivers' title in winning style.
Loeb more than doubled his overnight this morning and he maintained his 30-odd second advantage this afternoon, winning two more stages and finishing up post-SS16 29.7 seconds up on Ford's Jari-Matti Latvala.
“It's going pretty well,” Loeb said. “As the conditions stayed dry, I didn't really ease off. We might well have some rain tomorrow and I'd rather start the final leg with a relatively comfortable lead. I can't wait for tomorrow's stages, because they really do run through the area where I grew up.”
Latvala meanwhile was quickest in the other two tests on the repeat loop – albeit sharing the honours with Mikko Hirvonen in SS13 – but while he did take a bit of time out of Loeb in SS13 and SS16, the Frenchman took the time back in SS14 and SS15.
“My speed was good again today, although I'm disappointed I made a mistake this morning,” Latvala reflected. “Tomorrow's stages are short so it will be difficult to attack. But I'm thinking more about preserving second than trying to win, which will be almost impossible unless Loeb makes a mistake. My car is fast enough to win the rally, but it's the driver that has to improve!
“I'm still not confident when there is gravel and dirt on the road from the cuts, but I'm starting to understand how to approach those situations so that's pleasing,” he added.
Hirvonen completes the provisional podium, but his hopes of closing on Latvala were effectively ended after a scare in the penultimate test, SS15.
“I hit a large rock which was in the middle of the road, and I feared that I had picked up a puncture," he explained. "We're still there, without having made any real mistakes since the start of the rally. I am pleased with my performance today. In fact, there was only one stage which wasn't very good for us. Apart from that, we were close to Seb and Jari. Although it's shorter, the final day looks like it might be complicated. If it rains, the roads will be even dirtier and muddier. I will keep pushing without taking any risks that might jeopardise the result that is shaping up for the team.”
Behind, Mads Ostberg, Dani Sordo and Thierry Neuville are locked in a good scrap for fourth. Ostberg is currently 4.1 seconds up on Sordo, with Neuville a further 3.9 seconds back in sixth after he incurred a 20-second penalty for being late at the SS11 time control.
M-Sport Ford duo Ott Tanak and Evgeny Novikov hold positions seven and eight, the latter only just missing out on the stage win in the final test, when he was 0.3 seconds slower than Latvala.
WRC MINI Team Portugal man Chris Atkinson and Martin Prokop round out the points scorers', ahead of the VW Motorsport-run Skoda Fabia S2000s of Sebastien Ogier and Andreas Mikkelsen in eleventh and twelfth.
In the support categories, Hayden Paddon heads the SWRC by almost 2 minutes, while Elfyn Evans has taken the WRC Academy win and with it the title with one round still to go. Evans beat Jose Suarez by 42.5 seconds, while John MacCrone was third.
As for retirements, Petter Solberg and Nasser Al-Attiyah were the most notable victims today, going out in SS9 and SS10 respectively.
The event now concludes on Sunday, with two loops of three stages on the bill and a total competitive distance of 61.54 km.
SS17, the 17.08 km-run through Vignoble de Cleebourg, is due to start tomorrow at 09.23 hours local time [08.23 hours UK time].Rallye de France-Alsace: Overall standings after Stage 16 (Top 10):
1. Sebastien Loeb
Citroen Total WRT DS3 WRC 2hours 54mins 33.4secs
2. Jari-Matti Latvala
Ford WRT Fiesta RS WRC +00mins 29.7secs
3. Mikko Hirvonen
Citroen Total WRT DS3 WRC +00mins 54.0secs
4. Mads Ostberg
Adapta WRT Fiesta RS WRC +01mins 46.4secs
5. Dani Sordo
Prodrive MINI John Cooper Works WRC +01mins 50.5secs
6. Thierry Neuville
Citroen Junior WRT DS3 WRC +01mins 54.4secs
7. Ott Tanak
M-Sport Ford WRT Fiesta RS WRC +02mins 32.0secs
8. Evgeny Novikov
M-Sport Ford WRT Fiesta RS WRC +02mins 46.2secs
9. Chris Atkinson
WRC MINI Team Portugal John Cooper Works WRC +06mins 14.9secs
10. Martin Prokop
Czech Ford National Team Fiesta RS WRC +07mins 46.7secsOthers
11. Sebastien Ogier
VW Motorsport Skoda Fabia S2000 +08mins 36.3secs
12. Andreas Mikkelsen
VW Motorsport Skoda Fabia S2000 +10mins 49.4secs
13. Julien Maurin
Ford Fiesta WRC +12mins 17.0secs
14. Yvan Muller
MINI John Cooper Works WRC +13mins 07.9secs
15. Sebastien Chardonnet
FFSA Citroen WRT DS3 WRC +13mins 14.5secs
16. Hayden Paddon
Skoda Fabia S2000 +13mins 34.8secs
17. Romain Dumas
MINI John Cooper Works WRC +14mins 38.3secs
18. Hermann Gassner
Skoda Fabia S2000 +15mins 01.2secs
19. Yazeed Al-Rajhi
Ford Fiesta S2000 +15mins 33.5secs
20. Craig Breen
Ford Fiesta S2000 +15mins 48.4secs
21. Daniel Oliveira
Brazil WRT Ford Fiesta RS WRC +15mins 57.2secs
24. Paolo Nobre
WRC MINI Team Portugal John Cooper Works WRC +21mins 46.2secsSWRC standings after Stage 16 (Top 3):
1. Hayden Paddon
Skoda Fabia S2000 3hours 08mins 08.2secs
2. Yazeed Al-Rajhi
Ford Fiesta S2000 +01mins 58.7secs
3. Craig Breen
Ford Fiesta S2000 +02mins 13.6secs
SWRC Academy standings after Stage 16 (Top 3)#:
1. Elfyn Evans
Ford Fiesta R2 3hours 20mins 42.6secs
2. Jose Suarez
Ford Fiesta R2 +00mins 42.5secs
3. John MacCrone
Ford Fiesta R2 +01mins 35.4secs
# WRC Academy event ended after SS16Notable retirements:
SS9. Petter Solberg
Ford WRT Fiesta RS WRC Went off the road
SS10. Nasser Al-Attiyah
Qatar WRT Citroen DS3 WRC Accident
Mall times unofficial