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Loeb pulls away on Rally Mexico
5 March 2011
Citroen's Sebastien Loeb has moved back into the lead this morning on Rally Mexico and has now built up a 19.7 second cushion heading into the 30-minute mid-day service at Leon.
Loeb, who finished Friday 2.3 seconds adrift of his team-mate, Sebastien Ogier, took advantage of being second on the road to set the pace in SS11, the 29.90 km-run through Ibarrilla 1, which kicked off the second leg. The WRC record man then took more than 15 seconds out of Ogier in SS12 and pulled out a few more precision seconds in SS13 and SS14. It remains to be seen though if he will continue to push this afternoon, or if he will ease off and allow Ogier back in front to ensure he doesn't have to play the road sweeper on the final day.
“It has been a hard battle,” Loeb said in service E. “I wanted to make a gap but he [Ogier] has been going quite well. I have no idea about team orders.”
Ogier for his part has tried to minimise the disadvantage of having to run first in the order and has done pretty well all things considered, setting the third fastest time in SS11, before going fifth in SS12, fourth in SS13 and second in SS14.
“It was okay,” Ogier noted after Derramadero 1. “I had a good drive on this one [SS13]. It is never easy to be first on the road. Now I have to wait. We do what we can. The last one [SS12] was so twisty and that is why I lost more time.”
Meanwhile, Ford Abu Dhabi WRT man Mikko Hirvonen has been unable to make up any ground and remains almost 1.5 minutes back in his Fiesta RS WRC: “I am a little surprised,” Hirvonen conceded. “I don't know why we cannot push any harder. It is tricky. We try to do something with the car now, but we need to be careful and avoid any punctures.”
Jari-Matti Latvala hasn't made any progress either in the sister factory Fiesta RS WRC, and remains one place lower on the leaderboard, with another puncture near the end of SS11 hampering his charge. He also complained of a gear lever issue in SS12 and SS13.
“It has been fine for Jari-Matti and Mikko,” said Ford Abu Dhabi team boss, Malcolm Wilson. “I think the sensible approach is to keep the result we have got at the moment.
"There have been various things with the other [Fiesta RS WRC] cars. We have seen a lot of encouraging things again today though. We know areas where we can and need to improve.”
Away from the top four, Henning Solberg is now up to fifth, after Evgeny Novikov was forced to stop at the end of SS12 due to an oil leak. Henning has had his own issues this morning though, and has had to contend with no power steering, leaving him with a big blister on his hand.
“There is a lot of work with the problem with the power steering but I am working on it. My hand is very sore,” he remarked.
His brother, Petter has made a good fight-back and from being 13th overnight, the Citroen privateer is now in sixth, and gunning for P5. 'Hollywood' has been flying today and was quickest in SS12 and SS13.
“I am still aiming for fifth and maybe, who knows, back on the podium! You need to have a goal!” said the Norwegian.
Mads Ostberg is another runner to have moved up the order and is now seventh in his M-Sport Stobart Ford, ahead of SWRC leader Nasser Al-Attiyah and then Martin Prokop and Juho Hanninen.
A number of competitors had problems this morning and in addition to Novikov, Matt Wilson and Dennis Kuipers also both retired from the leg. Kuipers crashed out in the first test of the day, while Wilson retired on the road section to SS11 with reoccurring electrical problems – the same thing that stopped the Englishman on Friday, when he was running in fourth. The only other notable retiree was Ott Tanak, who had been second in the SWRC before he went off the road in Ibarrilla 1.
Ken Block and Federico Villagra both re-started today under the SupeRally and are currently running outside the top-ten.
The action now continues this afternoon with repeat runs through Ibarrilla, Duarte and Derramadero. SS15, Ibarrilla 2, starts at 13.57 hours local time [19.57 hours UK time]. The leg then concludes, like on Friday, with two runs through the short 2.21 km Super Special.
Rally Mexico: Overall standings after Stage 14 (Top 10):
1. Sebastien Loeb Citroen Total WRT DS3 WRC 2hours 19mins 13.8secs M
2. Sebastien Ogier Citroen Total WRT DS3 WRC +00mins 19.7secs M
3. Mikko Hirvonen Ford Abu Dhabi WRT Fiesta RS WRC +01mins 43.1secs M
4. Jari-Matti Latvala Ford Abu Dhabi WRT Fiesta RS WRC +03mins 20.4secs M
5. Henning Solberg M-Sport Stobart Ford Fiesta RS WRC +05mins 47.2secs M
6. Petter Solberg PSWRT Citroen DS3 WRC +07mins 26.8secs M
7. Mads Ostberg M-Sport Stobart Ford Fiesta RS WRC +07mins 40.2secs M
8. Nasser Al-Attiyah Ford Fiesta S2000 +08mins 21.8secs S
9. Martin Prokop Ford Fiesta S2000 +09mins 11.3secs S
10. Juho Hanninen Skoda Fabia S2000 +10mins 16.9secs S
11. Evgeny Novikov M-Sport Stobart Ford Fiesta RS WRC +14mins 54.7secs A1#
14. Ken Block Monster WRT Ford Fiesta RS WRC +27mins 32.1secs
17. Federico Villagra Munchis Ford WRT Fiesta RS WRC +43mins 01.7secs M
# assumes will re-start under SupeRally on day 3
SWRC standings after Stage 14 (Top 3):
1. Nasser Al-Attiyah Ford Fiesta S2000 2hours 27mins 35.6secs S
2. Martin Prokop Ford Fiesta S2000 +00mins 49.5secs S
3. Juho Hanninen Skoda Fabia S2000 +01mins 55.1secs S
SS1. Ken Block Monster WRT Ford Fiesta RS WRC Electrical problem*
SS2. Federico Villagra Munchis Ford WRT Fiesta RS WRC Lost a wheel M*
SS7. Matthew Wilson M-Sport Stobart Ford Fiesta RS WRC Electrical problem A1*
SS8. Ken Block Monster WRT Ford Fiesta RS WRC Electrical problem*
SS11. Matthew Wilson M-Sport Stobart Ford Fiesta RS WRC Mechanical problem before test A1
SS11. Denis Kuipers FERM Powertools Ford Fiesta RS WRC Crashed M
SS11. Ott Tanak Ford Fiesta S2000 Crashed S
SS12/13. Evgeny Novikov M-Sport Stobart Ford Fiesta RS WRC Oil leak A1
* denotes re-started under SupeRally.
all times unofficial