Citroen's Sebastien Ogier saw his Rally Mexico lead cut slightly on the Super Specials this evening.
Ogier was second to Loeb in both runs through the short 2.21 km test and he will now face another day running first on the road as he looks to try and hold off his team-mate and take the very first win with the new DS3 WRC. Ogier is under no illusions about the size of the task ahead of him, but is adamant he will keep fighting.
He will have the chance to keep pushing too after he escaped unpunished following a stewards meeting at the end of the day, which was convened to look into what happened on Friday, when he went the wrong way into service post-SS5.
“There are still three stages and around sixty kilometres left tomorrow,” he stated. “We are well placed even if our lead's not very big, and we will really go for it to hang onto our first place.”
Loeb is equally up for it and remains a big threat, despite that 50-second time penalty after he was late starting SS15 due to a gearbox issue [see separate story – click here
]: “I don't want to be second tomorrow,” said the seven-time World Rally champion. “It is difficult to say at the moment [how much I will push for the victory]. The difference is not too much. We have to try for sure.”
So will Citroen now enforce team orders?
Citroen team boss Olivier Quesnel is giving little away: “The car is really new and there are new regulations and a new engine,” he replied when asked that exact question at the end of the second day. "This afternoon we had some problems precisely because the car is new. We need to have the cars there at the end. Both Sebs understand this. That is enough. I don't have to say any more.”
Meanwhile, Ford's Mikko Hirvonen is a distant third, more than a minute back and somewhat frustrated he hasn't been able to go faster: “Third is a good position, but I was a little disappointed with my speed. I thought the advantage of my start position would allow me to take back more time this morning,” he explained.
“I pushed hard, but on a few occasions I slid wide into the gravel on the edge of the road where the big rocks were lying in wait. That wasn't the place to be and I didn't want to take those risks.
“The sensible option now is to avoid the risk of punctures, and keep an eye on what is happening to the guys ahead. I feel in a safe position and I need to keep it. If I'm still third going into the Power Stage tomorrow, then I hope to push and take maximum bonus points. I enjoy the roads that will be used for that.”
Jari-Matti Latvala, who is fourth in the sister Ford Abu Dhabi WRT-run Fiesta RS WRC, echoed those sentiments and after that puncture on Friday is another minute down the road: “The roads didn't clean as much as yesterday, so our start position didn't give the advantage we hoped,” he continued. “The time gap to the drivers ahead is too big for me to think about chasing, so I'm going to concentrate on keeping neat, tidy lines and push hard for bonus points on the Power Stage. The roads for that have already been used so they should be clean.
“I came here to fight for the podium but I have to think of the bigger picture and it's only round two of the championship.”