WRC Rally Argentina 2013: Loeb concludes day two on top
3 May 2013
Citroen's Sebastien Loeb has finished day two of Rally Argentina with a commanding lead and he now looks well poised to secure his eighth win in succession on the event.
Loeb took the lead this morning in SS7, and then won both stages this afternoon to consolidate his position at the head of the pack. Following the short 6.04 km SSS this evening, he will now take a 39.8 second advantage into the final leg, which comprises two stages, both to be run twice, and a total competitive distance of 77.92 kilometres.
“I drove flat out this morning, because I felt really comfortable in the car. Generally speaking, the grip was good, but we had to be cautious in the muddy sections. I made a mistake on the day's first stage, and then my rival made one on the next stage,” Loeb said.
“This afternoon, as I still felt really good, I decided to push because I knew I could pull clear. A 40-second lead seems pretty healthy to me and means I start the final day in a strong position. But it's not over yet!” he added.
Volkswagen man Sebastien Ogier meanwhile is second, and well aware that with Loeb only doing a limited number of events this season, the runners-up spot will allow him to strengthen his considerable lead in the Drivers' Championship.
“We lost a bit of time during the seventh special stage today. We skidded off the course on a long right-hand bend. Luckily, we were able to reverse and keep going. It's a shame to lose the lead like that, of course, but it's all part of rallying. We're still ahead of our immediate opponents in the championship classifications, so we have the chance to keep collecting valuable points. And that's precisely what we aim to do tomorrow,” Ogier remarked.
Evgeny Novikov holds a distant third for the Qatar M-Sport World Rally Team, just 8.2 seconds ahead of Jari-Matti Latvala.
“I didn't expect to be in third position by the end of the day, but obviously I am very happy to be here! The stages were very difficult today – especially on the second pass – and there were a lot of rocks to look out for. Luckily we made it through with no problems,” Novikov stated. “The plan now is to defend our position and fight to keep Jari-Matti behind us. It won't be easy, but we will try our best as always.”
“It was another long and varied day's rallying,” Latvala added. “We didn't cope with the slow stretches very well this morning, but things went much better this afternoon after we made a few changes to our set-up. Then just as third place seemed within reach, we were set back by one of the tyres, which was damaged when we landed after a jump. I went straight back on the attack in the last stage and managed to regain ground on the team in third. We're only 8.2 seconds behind Novikov and I'm already looking forward to tomorrow's duel.”
Behind, Thierry Neuville rounds out the top five, ahead of Mikko Hirvonen and Mads Ostberg, the former losing time this afternoon first with a puncture and then with an electrical problem.
“Obviously, it's bitterly disappointing,” said Hirvonen, who had been second overall. “I knew that a lot of things would happen today, but unfortunately things haven't worked out in our favour. We just have to keep going to the end now to score some points.”
“Today has been a lot better for me than yesterday!” Ostberg added. “We found a new set-up [during midday service] yesterday and we confirmed today that it is working really well. I think we have been driving really well too so it has been a very good day for us. Unfortunately we are unable to fight for a good position, but hopefully we can set some good times and fight for some good points.”
Of the rest, Martin Prokop, Andreas Mikkelsen and Dani Sordo hold positions 8 through to 10. Mikkelsen retired on the road section to SS9, but will re-start on Saturday under Rally 2.
“We'd agreed with our engineers that we would take more risks and go on the attack this afternoon,” Mikkelsen explained. “The special stages were very rough and harsh on the car, and there were lots of violent impacts which damaged something in the front wheel suspension. I was lucky in a way because we still completed the stage in a really good time. But we were unlucky too, because we had to retire early today because of the problem with the suspension. Anyway, tomorrow is another day and we'll try to keep learning and covering more miles with the Polo R WRC. All in all, I'm not entirely unhappy with the rally.”
In WRC2, Abdulaziz Al-Kuwari heads the support class, more than 10 minutes up on Nicolas Fuchs.
Rally Argentina now concludes on Saturday, with SS11, the 22.64 km Mini Clavero-Giulio Cesare test, starting at 09.08 hours local time [13.08 hours UK time].
Rally Argentina: Overall standings after Stage 10 (Top 10):
1. Sebastien Loeb Citroen Total Abu Dhabi WRT DS3 WRC 3hours 32mins 15.9secs M
2. Sebastien Ogier Volkswagen Motorsport Polo R WRC +39.8secs M
3. Evgeny Novikov Qatar M-Sport WRT Ford Fiesta RS WRC +2m 43.3s M
4. Jari-Matti Latvala Volkswagen Motorsport Polo R WRC +2m 51.5s M
5. Thierry Neuville Qatar WRT Ford Fiesta RS WRC +3m 32.5s T
6. Mikko Hirvonen Citroen Total Abu Dhabi WRT DS3 WRC +6m 43.3s M
7. Mads Ostberg Qatar M-Sport WRT Ford Fiesta RS WRC +10m 40.6s M*
8. Martin Prokop Jipocar Czech National Team Ford Fiesta RS WRC +12m 13.9s T
9. Andreas Mikkelsen Volkswagen Motorsport II Polo R WRC +12m 44.1s T*
10. Dani Sordo Abu Dhabi Citroen Total WRT DS3 WRC +13m 04.1s M
11. Gabriel Pozzo Qatar WRT Ford Fiesta RS WRC +14m 44.6s T
12. Daniel Oliveira Stohl Racing Ford Fiesta RS WRC +23m 00.1s*
13. Abdulaziz Al-Kuwari Ford Fiesta RRC +26m 03.5s WRC2
WRC2 standings after Stage 10 (Top 3):
1. Abdulaziz Al-Kuwari Ford Fiesta RRC 3hr 58m 19.4s WRC2
2. Nicolas Fuchs Mitsubishi Lancer Evo IX +10m 30.7s WRC2
3. Marcos Ligato Subaru Impreza WRX STi +20m 54.3s WRC2
SS4. Mads Ostberg Qatar M-Sport WRT Ford Fiesta RS WRC Broken steering arm M*
SS4. Daniel Oliveira Stohl Racing Ford Fiesta RS WRC Lost front wheel*
SS5. Michal Kosciuszko Lotos Team WRC MINI John Cooper Works WRC Stopped in stage T*
SS6. Michal Kosciuszko Lotos Team WRC MINI John Cooper Works WRC Suspension T
SS8/9. Andreas Mikkelsen Volkswagen Motorsport II Polo R WRC Suspension T*
*denotes re-started under Rally 2 regulations
all times unofficial