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Loeb still on target in leg two

24 August 2002


Citroen driver Sebastien Loeb continues to lead the tenth round of the FIA World Rally Championship, the Rallye Deutschland, which continued today.

The young Frenchman lost time with damaged steering and a high-speed spin, but despite this he maintains the advantage, 10.1 seconds ahead of reigning world champion Richard Burns.

Current series leader Marcus Grönholm has set several fastest times today as he recovered from the hydraulic problems that slowed him yesterday, and he holds third overall.

Today's stages were based in the notoriously rough and bumpy Baumholder military ranges, and they caught out several crews. Subaru's Petter Solberg and Achim Mortl both retired after accidents, as did Skoda's Toni Gardemeister and Hyundai driver Armin Schwarz.

Citroen's Philippe Bugalski was forced to retire his Xsara WRC after this morning's first stage. The Frenchman damaged his exhaust in the test, but then on the road section to the next stage it broke an oil pipe and the engine would no longer run.

Sebastien Loeb's car has been generally reliable, although he did knock his steering out of line in SS12.

Loeb is still in the lead, but it hasn't been a straightforward day's action for the young Frenchman. He swapped seconds with second-placed Richard Burns in the opening stages, but then lost time to his rivals when he clipped a rock and knocked his car's steering out of line in SS12. He also spun in sixth gear in the same stage and his lead was cut to around six seconds as a result, but he retaliated in SS13 to ease his advantage back up to 19 seconds again. Loeb entered this evening's closing superspecial ahead by the same margin, and despite overshooting a junction he remains in front by 10.1 seconds.

''I have to be quite pleased with today - it hasn't been perfect but it could have been much worse,'' said Loeb. ''I had a very big spin in SS12, at around 160kph, and we also damaged the steering in that stage as well. I had to do SS13 with the same problem so I was surprised when we set fastest time. I'm trying to keep the same speed as the guys behind, because that way we won't have to take many risks and we can keep our lead at this level. I can still win - I'm quite confident.''

Team-mate Bugalski added: ''There was no way we could continue, because the pipe broke and we lost all of the oil. It's very frustrating, because once the pipe was fixed and more oil was put in, the car worked fine. But that's life.''

The Peugeot 206 WRCs of both Marcus Grönholm and Richard Burns have been reliable, but the third car of Harri Rovanperä encountered hydraulic pressure problems on today's third stage.

Burns has maintained his second position, closing in on Sebastien Loeb when the leader knocked his car's steering out of line in SS12 and when he overshoot a junction in SS16.

Team-mate Marcus Grönholm charged this morning, though, setting two fastest times as he passed both Colin McRae and Philippe Bugalski to move into third overall. The Finn consolidated that place this afternoon. Harri Rovanperä missed out on the chance of a top-10 placing when he lost time with hydraulic pressure problems in stages 11, 12 and 13.

''We've tried hard to make up time today but we could obviously do with making up some more,'' noted Gronholm. ''I'm not sure what will happen tomorrow - maybe it's still possible to try to catch Richard but Sebastien looks very far ahead of us now.''

Burns added: ''It's been a reasonable day, although the conditions have obviously been tricky and tyre choice has been difficult. Sebastien's still got a bit of an advantage but the stages tomorrow are different again so we'll have to wait and see what happens tomorrow morning.''

The Ford Focus RS WRC02s of Colin McRae, Carlos Sainz and Markko Martin have run without problems. Sainz, however, had to cope with two punctures in SS14 and SS15, although Pirelli's anti-deflation mousse system prevented any serious time loss. Martin also complained of too stiff a suspension set-up for the closing pair of stages over the Baumholder ranges.

McRae and Sainz have both maintained their positions, although neither looks likely to challenge the Peugeots or the leading Citroen. McRae has consolidated his fourth place, while Sainz lost time to Solberg in the early stages, then moved up to fifth once the Norwegian and second Citroen driver Philippe Bugalski retired. The third Focus driver, Markko Martin, ended the second leg seventh overall.

Colin McRae said: ''It's been going okay today and our tyre choices haven't been too bad in the mixed conditions, but we can't really challenge the Peugeots or the Citroen on speed alone. All we can do is maintain a good pace, try to keep what pressure we can on them and see what happens.''

Carlos Sainz continued: ''It has been a difficult day, mainly because of tyre choice. We've been having to guess what the weather will do in service, but this morning we got it wrong and it was hard to read the amount of grip that was at each corner.''

Mitsubishi's remaining Lancer Evo WRC2 of Francois Delecour has been reliable and was also better suited to today's stages in the Baumholder military ranges, and this morning's rain conditions seemed to help its cause even further.

Delecour capitalised, moving up the leaderboard and even setting second fastest time on one stage. He ended leg two eighth overall.

''We've gone back to some much earlier settings - to the ones that we found a few weeks ago instead of the ones that we settled on at the pre-event test here - and it's worked,'' commented Delecour. ''I've been struggling under braking all rally and now it's much more progressive and predictable, so I've got much more confidence. That's made a big difference. I also think the wider roads today have helped, because they suit this car more than the narrow vineyard lanes.''

At Subaru Tommi Mäkinen's Impreza WRC2002 has gone well, and Petter Solberg's example also ran without problems until he damaged it terminally in an accident in SS11.

Subaru lost two more of its four entries today. Achim Mortl put his Impreza off the road on this morning's opening stage, and then Petter Solberg - who'd moved ahead of Carlos Sainz and towards the top six on the first two tests - slid off and hit a rock in SS11. The impact ripped the right-rear wheel and much of the suspension off the car, and although he reached the end of the stage he was unable to go any further.

Mäkinen, meanwhile, has rediscovered confidence in his car's handling after reverting to an older set-up this morning. The Finn has pushed his way into the top ten as a result.

Petter Solberg said: ''There was a small bump in quite a fast corner and it was enough to unbalance the car and we went off. There was a rock and I knew as soon as we hit it that the damage was bad. There was absolutely no way we could get to the following stage, let alone the one after. I was pushing, of course, but it's the first real 'moment' that I've had all event so it's disappointing for it to result in a retirement.''

Tommi Mäkinen added: ''We changed back to a set-up that we had a few months ago and it's given me a much better feeling with the car. Changing the suspension and differential settings means that the car's much easier and more comfortable for me to drive, so I can commit more. I'm glad to have at least found this, even if we're already a long way behind.''

Skoda's Kenneth Eriksson, meanwhile, hit major problems this morning. His car broke a section of its propshaft on the start line of SS9, and the veteran Swede couldn't go above 30kph before the resulting vibration became so bad that he was unable to see. He also lost boost on the same test.

Toni Gardemeister's Octavia was reliable this morning, although it developed an idling fault in the middle loop of three stages.

Gardemeister spent much of this morning battling with Markko Martin and Francois Delecour on the fringes of the top ten, but although the young Finn fought his way into ninth after the middle loop of three stages, he slid off the road in SS14. He struggled to the end of the test but was unable to continue.

Eriksson's hopes of inching into the top 10 were dealt a major blow on today's opening stage, when the Swede's Octavia broke its prop shaft on the start line. He finished the day 12th.

''We've had all sorts of problems today,'' said Erikkson, ''in fact, after this morning I'm actually pleased that we're still going. The propshaft problem this morning was so bad, because it basically straight off the line and we couldn't see anything when we went above 30kph.''

At Hyundai Freddy Loix's Accent retired before it could even reach first service this morning. The engine in the Belgian's car lacked oil pressure, and the Hyundai team believes the problem is related to the misfire that it suffered yesterday evening. Armin Schwarz's car ran reliably in the opening test, but he retired when he rolled off the road in SS10.

The German and his navigator Manfred Hiemer were both taken to hospital suffering from shock, and Schwarz was diagnosed with a fractured and dislocated rib.

Armin Schwarz said: ''That was one of the biggest accidents of my career and quite frightening. We had to start SS10 with a right-rear puncture and then I'm not sure what happened. Under braking at about 120kph, we just went off the road to the left. The left-front of the car hit a tree and then we bounced across and got lodged in a tree to the right.''

Of the other entries Belgian Ford driver Francois Duval has stamped his authority on the Junior World Championship section of the event. Overnight leader Sven Haaf succumbed to engine problems early this morning, and his nearest rival Niall McShea crashed heavily this afternoon, leaving the Ulsterman and navigator Michael Orr in hospital for checks.

Duval's chief pursuers are Daniel Sola and Andrea Dallavilla - the latter has been among the quickest in the class today, as he recovers from his problems yesterday.


Rally statistics - Leg two:

Starters: 86 crews (60 Group A and 26 Group N) restarted this morning.

Retirements: Mortl (A), Loix (B), Schwarz (D), Bugalski (F), Solberg (N), Gardemeister (FIN) and 13 other drivers.

Today - Saturday 24 August: Leg 2 started from Trier, Messepark, at 07h30 and covered 586.28km, including 164.50km on eight special stages.

Tomorrow - Sunday 25 August: Leg 3 starts from Trier, Messepark, at 06h30 and covers 362.89km, including 102.93km on seven special stages. The first car is expected to arrive at the finish control in Trier, Porta Nigra, at 16h00.

Weather forecast: Fine and warm, with a chance of showers.


Stage by stage summary - Leg two:


SS9 Maiwald 1 (18.76kms):
1. Grönholm (FIN) Peugeot 10m 58.6
2. Burns (GB) Peugeot 11m 11.7
3. Solberg (N) Subaru 11m 16.9

Leaders after SS9:
1. Loeb (F) Citroen 1h 26m 48.7
2. Burns (GB) Peugeot 1h 27m 08.8
3. Grönholm (FIN) Peugeot 1h 27m 55.5

SS10 Panzerplatte 1 (35.56kms):
1. Grönholm (FIN) Peugeot 21m 27.0
2. Loeb (F) Citroen 21m 34.6
3. Burns (GB) Peugeot 21m 44.7

Leaders after SS10:
1. Loeb (F) Citroen 1h 48m 23.3
2. Burns (GB) Peugeot 1h 48m 53.5
3. Grönholm (FIN) Peugeot 1h 49m 22.5

SS11 Maiwald 2 (18.76kms):
1. Grönholm (FIN) Peugeot 10m 52.0
2. Burns (GB) Peugeot 10m 55.1
3. Mäkinen (FIN) Subaru 10m 56.0

Leaders after SS11:
1. Loeb (F) Citroen 1h 59m 24.7
2. Burns (GB) Peugeot 1h 59m 48.6
3. Grönholm (FIN) Peugeot 2h 00m 14.5

SS12 Hahlkreuz (8.31kms):
1. Burns (GB) Peugeot 4m 53.3
2. Mäkinen (FIN) Subaru 4m 54.5
3. Grönholm (FIN) Peugeot 4m 55.2

Leader after SS12:
1. Loeb (F) Citroen 2h 04m 35.7
2. Burns (GB) Peugeot 2h 04m 41.9
3. Grönholm (FIN) Peugeot 2h 05m 09.7

SS13 Erzweiler 1 (20.87kms):
1. Loeb (F) Peugeot 12m 56.6
2. Delecour (F) Mitsubishi 12m 57.9
3. Sainz (E) Ford 13m 02.8

Leaders after SS13:
1. Loeb (F) Citroen 2h 17m 32.3
2. Burns (GB) Peugeot 2h 17m 51.1
3. Grönholm (FIN) Peugeot 2h 18m 15.5

SS14 Panzerplatte 2 (35.56kms):
1. Grönholm (FIN) Peugeot 20m 39.7
2. Burns (GB) Peugeot 20m 44.5
3. Loeb (F) Citroen 20m 47.8

Leaders after SS14:
1. Loeb (F) Citroen 2h 38m 20.1
2. Burns (GB) Peugeot 2h 38m 35.6
3. Grönholm (FIN) Peugeot 2h 38m 55.2

SS15 Erzweiler (20.87kms):
1. Loeb (F) Citroen 12m 21.1
2. Grönholm (FIN) Peugeot 12m 21.3
3. Burns (GB) Peugeot 12m 24.2

Leaders after SS15:
1. Loeb (F) Citroen 2h 50m 41.2
2. Burns (GB) Peugeot 2h 50m 59.8
3. Grönholm (FIN) Peugeot 2h 51m 16.5

SS16 Superspecial St Wendel (5.81kms):
1. Grönholm (FIN) Peugeot 3m 36.5
2. Burns (GB) Peugeot 3m 37.9
3. Makinen (FIN) Subaru 3m 40.1

Leaders after SS16:
1. Loeb (F) Citroen 2h 54m 27.6
2. Burns (GB) Peugeot +10.1
3. Grönholm (FIN) Peugeot +25.4
4. C.McRae (GB) Ford +2m 14.8
5. Sainz (E) Ford +2m 44.9
6. Thiry (B) Peugeot +3m 21.1
7. Martin (EE) Ford +4m 01.2
8. Delecour (F) Mitsubishi +4m 02.6
9. Makinen (FIN) Subaru +4m 27.0
10. Kremer (D) Ford +5m 46.7





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