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Ogier continues to lead in Sweden
9 February 2013
Volkswagen's Sebastien Ogier remains comfortably in the lead of Rally Sweden following Saturday morning's opening loop of four stages.
Ogier concluded day one with a 31.4 second cushion and initially he extended that advantage this morning, when he took his sixth stage win of the event in SS9, Sagen 1. However he was more cautious in the subsequent tests, going fifth fastest in SS10, third in SS11 and fourth in SS12. As a result his advantage was cut slightly, although the Polo R WRC pilot wasn't too concerned and he now heads back to Hagfors for the mid-day service with a 25.2 second cushion.
“It was a good morning,” Ogier told WRC Live after SS12. “Everything is going perfect. We just have to keep going.”
Sebastien Loeb meanwhile was pleased to have nibbled into Ogier's lead and to have strengthened his hold on second. Loeb and Jari-Matti Latvala had been split by just 1.7 seconds last night, but now the gap is 13.8 seconds.
“I am more happy than yesterday morning. We are more on the pace now,” said Loeb, who was quickest in SS11 and second fastest in SS9, SS10 and SS12.
Latvala in contrast was disappointed to have slipped back, although he was actually quickest in SS10: “I need to improve my driving,” he remarked. “There is a little bit missing. Now we can get to service though and hopefully it will improve [after lunch].”
Behind, Mads Ostberg has closed up on the final podium position in his Qatar M-Sport WRT-run Ford Fiesta RS WRC and the Norwegian is now only 1.5 seconds off Latvala.
“I feel good and think that we have had quite a good morning. Loeb is going really quickly at the moment and I don't have enough speed to catch him right now. I could start taking bigger risks, but I really don't want to do that,” Ostberg noted. “For the moment we will just make some small adjustments to the car and see if that helps. We'll change a few things with the balance and just try to push a bit more in the afternoon. We'll still fight for sure, but I also need to think carefully about how I approach this rally now. I'm happy to be taking time off Jari-Matti, but I don't want to risk coming away with no points!”
Evgeny Novikov rounds out the top-five in the second Qatar M-Sport WRT team entry, albeit 44.8 seconds back, followed by team-mates, Juho Hanninen and Thierry Neuville in sixth and seventh.
“It wasn't so easy to find a good rhythm with the car early on, but I feel as though everything is coming together a bit more now,” Hanninen stated. “We need to change the pacenotes slightly in the fast sections, but other than that there have been no real dramas. I know that there is a lot more speed in the car, I just need to find the confidence to harness it.”
“It has been a good morning and I have had a lot of confidence in the car,” Neuville added. “I haven't been pushing flat out, but we had a really good rhythm and I was happy with the pace we showed. I still need a bit more time to adapt fully to the car, but I am beginning to understand the fastest way to drive it. The pacenotes have also been working really well on this event. We've had a lot of snow since the recce so some of the notes are a little fast for the corners, but we will make the necessary changes and hopefully improve over the afternoon.”
Of the rest, fellow Ford men Henning Solberg and Martin Prokop hold positions 8 and 9, with Dani Sordo tenth in his Citroen, one spot ahead of WRC2 class leader, Anders Grondal.
In terms of retirements, Saturday's first loop took two major scalps, with Friday star, Pontus Tidemand and Britain's Matthew Wilson both going out in SS9. Tidemand, who had been sixth overall, was forced to park his Fiesta RS WRC due to engine problems, while Wilson rolled his example.
Rally Sweden now continues this afternoon with a repeat-run through this morning's four stages. SS13, Sagen 2, is due to start at 13.38 hours local time [12.38 hours British time].
Rally Sweden: Overall standings after Stage 12 (Top 10):
1. Sebastien Ogier Volkswagen Motorsport Polo R WRC 1h 47m 21.3s M
2. Sebastien Loeb Citroen Total Abu Dhabi WRT DS3 WRC +25.2s M
3. Jari-Matti Latvala Volkswagen Motorsport Polo R WRC +39.0s M
4. Mads Ostberg Qatar M-Sport WRT Ford Fiesta RS WRC +40.5s M
5. Evgeny Novikov Qatar M-Sport WRT Ford Fiesta RS WRC +1m 25.3s M
6. Juho Hanninen Qatar WRT Ford Fiesta RS WRC +2m 23.4s
7. Thierry Neuville Qatar WRT Ford Fiesta RS WRC +2m 32.0s T
8. Henning Solberg Ford Fiesta RS WRC +4m 16.8s
9. Martin Prokop Jipocar Czech National TeamFord Fiesta RS WRC +6m 12.8s T
10. Dani Sordo Abu Dhabi Citroen Total WRT DS3 WRC +7m 26.9s
11. Anders Grondal Subaru Impreza +9m 52.8s WRC2
12. Yazeed Al-Rajhi Ford Fiesta RRC +10m 10.4s WRC2
13. Michal Solowow Peugeot 207 S2000 +11m 00.2s
14. Sepp Wiegand Skoda Fabia S2000 +12m 27.2s WRC2
WRC2 standings after Stage 12 (Top 3):
1. Anders Grondal Subaru Impreza 1h 57m 14.1s WRC2
2. Yazeed Al-Rajhi Ford Fiesta RRC +17.6s WRC2
3. Sepp Wiegand Skoda Fabia S2000 +2m 34.4s WRC2
SS5. Jari Ketomaa Ford Fiesta RS WRC Mechanical*
SS9. Pontus Tidemand Ford Fiesta WRC Engine
SS9. Matthew Wilson Qatar WRT Ford Fiesta RS WRC Went off the road
*denotes re-started under Rally 2
all times unofficial