Citroen number one driver Sebastien Loeb set the pace again in the Cardiff Bay Super Special stage tonight and now heads into the final day of the Wales Rally GB just 4.8 seconds up on Petter Solberg.
Loeb completed the 1.70 kilometre test in 1 minute 15.5 seconds – 0.2 seconds up on 'Hollywood'.
“Even if I've gained a few seconds during the afternoon, I reckon that we've been on level pegging,” said Loeb. “I knew that I could open up a small gap in the morning, but I made a couple of small errors. I hope I'll be able to maintain my advantage tomorrow, but Petter is really going like a bat out of hell to try and win the rally and take second place in the world championship. We've got four stages to decide the outcome.”
“It's been good fun today,” Solberg added. “I have really enjoyed the driving and the battle for seconds. The car has been working perfectly all day, and it's only my two spins that have made me loose time. Will give it all for a win here tomorrow, and being second on the road is not so bad, as I can run on Loeb's splits.”
Jari-Matti Latvala meanwhile was third through the test to edge ever so slightly closer to his BP Ford Abu Dhabi team-mate, Mikko Hirvonen in the battle for 'bronze'.
"Sebastien Ogier's accident [today] changed the championship situation," Latvala said. "I had good speed this morning, but the most important thing in these conditions was firstly to stay on the road. I took some massive risks and made some errors. This afternoon I decided that the gap between myself and the two leaders ahead was too big. I wasn't going to catch them and I felt uncomfortable taking those risks, so I drove more calmly this afternoon.
"On the final forest stage I lost time at the start after a problem with the launch control. I was angry and pushed hard. But I had to maintain my common sense and not do anything silly. I really want to finish on the podium tomorrow and hope that's enough for me to take second in the championship. I have a chance of second or third – but I really want second. I like tomorrow's stages. They're not easy, but they suit my driving," he added.
Dani Sordo, Henning Solberg, Matthew Wilson and Kimi Raikkonen continue to hold positions 5 through to 8, while Mads Osberg and Andreas Mikkelsen complete the top ten.
"I came into this rally knowing that it was going to be difficult, but I never actually thought that it would be this difficult," Raikkonen said. "I suppose today I had a slightly better idea of what to expect so it was less surprising but still just as tricky as yesterday. When we are driving on asphalt with gravel tyres there's really no grip at all.
“But in other places, there is more grip than you think. To do well here you need a lot of experience, which is why we are just driving at our own pace and not taking any risks. I'm enjoying myself though and learning more all the time. The stages are really nice but hard to predict - a bit like the weather here!”
There were two major retirements today, Sebastien Ogier, who crashed out in SS8 and Ken Block. Block retired with mechanical problems after SS12. He is expected to re-join under the SupeRally.
The event now concludes on Sunday with around 76 competitive kilometres on the bill – and two stages, Resolfen and Margam Park, both run twice. SS17, the 29.99 kilometre-run through Resolfen 1, begins at 07.47 hours. The event is due to finish in Cardiff at 15.25 [all times local].
Wales Rally GB: Overall standings after Stage 16 / Day 2 (Top 10):
1. Sebastien Loeb
Citroen Total WRT C4 WRC 2hours 32min 24.0secs
2. Petter Solberg
PSWRT Citroen C4 WRC +00mins 04.8secs
3. Mikko Hirvonen
BP Ford Abu Dhabi Focus RS WRC +01mins 28.0secs
4. Jari-Matti Latvala
BP Ford Abu Dhabi Focus RS WRC +01mins 36.6secs
5. Dani Sordo
Citroen Junior Team C4 WRC +01mins 52.0secs
6. Henning Solberg
Stobart M-Sport Ford Focus RS WRC +05mins 01.4secs
7. Matthew Wilson
Stobart M-Sport Ford Focus WRC +06mins 49.5secs
8. Kimi Raikkonen
Citroen Junior Team C4 WRC +08mins 30.9secs
9. Mads Ostberg
Subaru Impreza WRC +11mins 02.3secs
10. Andreas Mikkelsen
Skoda Fabia S2000 +11mins 04.4secs
SWRC Standings after Stage 16 / Day 2 (Top 3):
1. Andreas Mikkelsen
Skoda Fabia S2000 2hours 43mins 28.4secs
2. Jari Ketomaa
Ford Fiesta S2000 +00mins 25.0secs
3. Xavier Pons
Ford Fiesta S2000 +04mins 26.2secs
PWRC Standings after Stage 16 / Day 2 (Top 3):
1. Ott Tanak
Mitsubishi Lancer Evo X 2hours 50mins 25.7secs
2. Martin Semerad
Mitsubishi Lancer Evo IX +02mins 09.5secs
Mitsubishi Lancer Evo X +03mins 18.3secs
SS8. Sebastien Ogier
Citroen Total WRT C4 WRC Crashed
SS12/SS13. Ken Block
Monster WRT Ford Focus WRC Mechanical
all times unofficial