Loeb inherits Rally GB lead, puncture drops Latvala

Citroen's Sebastien Loeb holds a 1.8 second lead over Petter Solberg following the opening day of the Wales Rally GB; Jari-Matti Latvala has dropped back to sixth after a puncture in SS7.

Citroen's Sebastien Loeb leads Wales Rally GB at the end of the opening leg after Jari-Matti Latvala lost time in the final stage of the day with a puncture.

Loeb, who went into the mid-day service 1.4 seconds off P1, slipped down to fourth this afternoon on the repeat-run through Hafren. He then set the pace though in SS6 to haul himself back up to second, 4.5 seconds off the lead. The Frenchman was quickest again in SS7 – to take his fourth stage win of the event - and with Latvala hitting problems will now go into the overnight halt with a 1.8 second advantage.

"The rain caused some aquaplaning in SS5 and I think I dried the road for my pursuers," Loeb said. "In the next two stages I felt a lot more at ease. We had a great scrap with the other three today. There's still nothing in it as Sebastien Ogier and Petter Solberg are only four seconds behind."

Petter Solberg meanwhile heads the chasing pack and the Norwegian has been on the pace all day in his privately entered Citroen C4 WRC car, even though he has had problems with his gearbox: "I'm not happy, the gearbox isn't working properly," Solberg said this afternoon. "I go to fifth and it goes into neutral and I have to start again. Our times are unbelievable given the problems we are having."

Sebastien Ogier completes the top three and he is right in contention for the victory still, just 1.8 seconds off Petter and 3.6 seconds off P1. He was closer to the pace this afternoon too - topping the times in SS5 and going third quickest in SS6 and SS7.

"Very difficult conditions and there is a lot of water out there. But I had better grip on this [repeat] run. We've tried to go a little faster," he said. "I am happy with the car and the pace now. I have a better feeling. We'll have to see how it goes tomorrow."

Further back Mikko Hirvonen is now the lead Ford, albeit in a distant fourth - just over 40 seconds off the leader and only 6.7 seconds up on Dani Sordo in fifth, who is running under the Citroen Junior Team banner this weekend.

Latvala now finds himself down in sixth and cursing the puncture that lost him more than a minute in Myherin 2: "My windscreen was misting and the visibility was bad and getting worse, because it was also foggy. I approached a right corner over a crest and I didn't turn in early enough and hit the bank. It wasn't until I reached the next junction that I realised the impact had knocked the tyre off the rim," he explained.

"A kilometre before the finish the tyre came off completely, and pulled off a large piece of panel work. It was in that final kilometre that I lost most of the time. The only mechanical damage was to the oil cooler, but we fixed that after the stage finish," Latvala added.

Of the rest, Stobart Ford's Henning Solberg remains seventh with his team-mate, Matt Wilson now up into eighth.

Related Pictures

Click on relevant pic to enlarge
Sebastien Loeb (FRA) Daniel Elena (MON), Citroën C4, Citroën Total World Rally Team
Sebastien Loeb (FRA) Daniel Elena (MON), Citroën C4, Citroën Total World Rally Team
Sebastien Loeb (FRA) Daniel Elena (MON), Citroën C4, Citroën Total World Rally Team

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Chris - Unregistered

November 12, 2010 5:24 PM

Bit harsh to blame Loeb for winning. Surely a better bet for criticism is the idiots running M-Sport who give Loeb/Citroen no competition. With the driver policy Malcolm employs hardly likely to change anytime soon.

Chris - Unregistered

November 12, 2010 4:52 PM

8th position, 3mins 19sec down after only 6 proper stages takes the biscuit. End of the great 5 year plan. This is his 7th Rally GB. Count them 1, 2, 3, 4, 5, 6, 7. And this is as good as it gets. What a clown. Utter disgrace to Malcolm (but he's no shame anyway), Stobart, Ford, and England.

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