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WRC Portugal 2013: Ogier pulls further ahead
13 April 2013
Volkswagen's Sebastien Ogier dominated the repeat loop on Rally de Portugal this afternoon and after winning all three stages he will now take a 34.8 second advantage into the final leg.
Ogier began the second day 4.4 seconds up on Dani Sordo. However the Spaniard took himself out of the equation early on, when he went off the road in the opening test, SS6.
Ogier then ended the morning loop 14.1 seconds up on his team-mate, Jari-Matti Latvala, before a massive push in the afternoon saw him more than double his cushion. Indeed he took 4.6 seconds out of the Finn in SS9, before gaining 3.6 seconds in SS10 and 12.5 in the final test of the day.
The Frenchman, who has been struggling after a bout of 'flu pre-event, now looks poised to claim his third win on the trot and further extend his lead in the battle for the 2013 WRC Drivers' championship.
“It was a good day for us, but I really gave my all today,” Ogier said. “My team-mate Jari-Matti Latvala and Dani Sordo put me under an awful lot of pressure this morning. If we make it across the finishing line tomorrow and are still in the front, it will have been a perfect rally for us.
“Today it was really hard work out there. I'm already feeling better today than I did yesterday, especially this afternoon, even though I'm still not at one hundred per cent fit. And tomorrow will be probably the toughest day of the rally. I don't have to win at any cost, but on the other hand I'm one hundred per cent competitive and I always want to cross the line first.”
Latvala meanwhile also had a positive day, winning the first two stages this morning, and then taking a further three top-two times.
“I really enjoyed today – the stages were great fun,” said the Finn. “The tracks were quite difficult and tough on the car, especially the tyres. We had a nice duel with Mikko Hirvonen and managed to considerably extend our lead, even though we lost a bit of time in the last stage of the day because of a puncture.
“To be honest, I spent most of today looking behind me instead of in front of me. Of course I'd like to fight it out with Sebastien, but given that the season didn't get off to such a good start for me, I'm more worried about securing a place on the podium than winning outright. It's also important for the team that we both make it to the finishing line to get Volkswagen as many points as possible in the constructors' championship.”
Behind, Mikko Hirvonen was unable to take the fight to Latvala and conceded more time this afternoon. He now lies 33.7 seconds back – and over a minute off the leader.
“I feel a lot better than yesterday. In the technical, narrow sections, my pace is very good. It's in the fast sections that I am losing time. I then really tried, and kept pushing all the way [on the second loop]. Maybe I was a little bit too aggressive in some places. But even when I felt that everything was perfect, I was still losing a little bit of time to my rivals. I'll have to aim for this position now whilst making sure I look after my tyres,” said the Citroen driver.
Evgeny Novikov continues to hold fourth for the Qatar M-Sport WRT, although he is a long way back in his Fiesta RS WRC and revealed that he was slowed by suspension problems on the repeat loop.
“Fourth place is a good position so I have to be happy with that. But honestly, I am not happy with the times,” said the Russian. “I am pushing to the maximum but something just isn't working for us this weekend. There's not so much we can do about the guys in front of us because the gaps are too big, but if we keep this rhythm tomorrow who knows what might happen.”
Qatar WRT man Nasser Al-Attiyah rounds out the top five, one spot ahead of Andreas Mikkelsen, who is making his debut this weekend for Volkswagen and running in the third works Polo R WRC.
“We're still on a steep learning curve and we keep gaining valuable experience with every metre,” Mikkelsen explained. “The engine performance isn't the only thing which is worlds away from what I'm used to from the Super 2000 Skoda – the Polo R WRC's aerodynamics are impressive too. I'm still a long way off making the most of the WRC's potential, especially on fast bends, where I could keep up a lot more speed.
“On top of that, my pace notes contain too much information – we need to keep them simpler in future. Everything is just so much faster with the Polo R WRC. But all in all, we're moving in the right direction stage by stage. I'm very pleased with my performance today.”
Further back, Dennis Kuipers is seventh, having been drafted at short notice to replace Juho Hanninen, with Esapekka Lappi, Khalid Al-Qassimi and Martin Prokop in positions eight through to ten. Prokop had been running sixth but slipped back in the final two stages due to a broken rear differential. Michal Kosciuszko also lost out this afternoon with electrical problems in SS11 costing him over 10 minutes and dropping him from P9 to P14.
In the support categories, Lappi continues to head the WRC2 runners – and hold a place in the top-ten - while Bryan Bouffier is on course for WRC3 glory and Pontus Tidemand has taken the JWRC win.
In terms of retirements, in addition to Sordo, Thierry Neuville and Robert Kubica were the other two main casualties. Neuville went out in the same test as Sordo after hitting a rock and damaging the suspension on his Qatar WRT Fiesta RS WRC. Kubica re-started today under the Rally 2 regulations, but was forced out again this afternoon with a transmission problem. Mads Ostberg also re-joined the fold today, after his off in SS3 on Friday. He has hauled himself up from 56th position to 12th, just two spots off a place in the points.
“Obviously it's a little difficult running first on the road, but that's the way it is at the moment,” Ostberg noted. “The second pass was a bit trickier because, whereas on the first pass I can make my own lines and the grip is quite even, the lines on the second pass are clearly not made for a world rally car. There is also a fine layer of sand on the top of the bedrock which is really slippery in a few places.
“Having said that I think we have had a really good drive today. I was happy with our performance and, although it's difficult when you are fighting out of position, I think we have had really good pace considering where we were on the road.”
Rally de Portugal now concludes on Sunday, with four stages on the bill, including two runs through the monster 52.30 km Almodovar test. SS12, Silves 1, is due to start at 08.06 hours local time.
Rally de Portugal: Overall standings after Stage 11 (Top 10):
1. Sebastien Ogier Volkswagen Motorsport Polo R WRC 2hours 36mins 55.1secs M
2. Jari-Matti Latvala Volkswagen Motorsport Polo R WRC +34.8s M
3. Mikko Hirvonen Citroen Total Abu Dhabi WRT DS3 WRC +1m 08.5s M
4. Evgeny Novikov Qatar M-Sport WRT Ford Fiesta RS WRC +4m 23.9s M
5. Nasser Al-Attiyah Qatar WRT Ford Fiesta RS WRC +6m 19.2s
6. Andreas Mikkelsen Volkswagen Motorsport II Polo R WRC +7m 22.3s T
7. Dennis Kuipers Qatar WRT Ford Fiesta RS WRC +8m 29.0s
8. Esapekka Lappi Skoda Motorsport Fabia S2000 +10m 49.3s WRC2
9. Khalid Al-Qassimi Citroen Total Abu Dhabi WRT DS3 WRC +11m 09.9s T
10. Martin Prokop Jipocar Czech National Team Ford Fiesta RS WRC +11m 10.0s T
11. Sepp Wiegand Skoda Auto Deutschland Fabia S2000 +14m 59.1s WRC2
12. Mads Ostberg Qatar M-Sport WRT Ford Fiesta RS WRC +16m 37.9s M
13. Robert Barrable Ford Fiesta S2000 +19m 33.7s WRC2
14. Michal Kosciuszko Lotos Team WRC MINI John Cooper Works WRC +19m 56.2s T
15. Bryan Bouffier Citroen DS3 R3T +20m 19.4s WRC3
WRC2 standings after Stage 11 (Top 3):
1. Esapekka Lappi Skoda Motorsport Fabia S2000 2hrs 47m 44.4s WRC2
2. Sepp Wiegand Skoda Auto Deutschland Fabia S2000 +4m 09.8s WRC2
3. Robert Barrable Ford Fiesta S2000 +8m 44.4s WRC2
WRC3 standings after Stage 11 (Top 3):
1. Bryan Bouffier Citroen DS3 R3T 2hrs 57m 14.5s WRC3
2. Sebastien Chardonnet Citroen DS3 R3T +7m 49.6s WRC3
3. Francesco Parli Citroen DS3 R3T +14m 51.6s WRC3
JWRC standings after Stage 11 (Top 3)#:
1. Pontus Tidemand Ford Fiesta R2 3hrs 01m 23.6s JWRC
2. Jose Antonio Suarez Ford Fiesta R2 +2m 26.9s JWRC
3. Yeray Lemes Ford Fiesta R2 +3m 10.7s JWRC
# JWRC event ended after SS11
SS3. Mads Ostberg Qatar M-Sport WRT Ford Fiesta RS WRC Rolled M*
SS4/SS5. Robert Kubica Citroen DS3 RRC Mechanical WRC2*
SS6. Dani Sordo Citroen Total Abu Dhabi WRT DS3 WRC Went off the road M
SS6. Thierry Neuville Qatar WRT Ford Fiesta RS WRC Suspension damage T
SS10. Robert Kubica Citroen DS3 RRC Mechanical WRC2
*denotes re-started under the Rally 2 regulations
all times unofficial