WRC » 26 March 2011
Ogier retakes lead as Loeb fumes at Hirvonen
Sébastien Ogier has reclaimed the lead of Rally Portugal from Jari-Matti Latvala - but following their team-mates Sébastien Loeb and Mikko Hirvonen's ill-tempered spat on Saturday morning, nobody really noticed...
Erstwhile pace-setter Sébastien Ogier has retaken the lead of this weekend's Rally Portugal following the completion of Saturday morning's three stages, but the Citroën star's charge was somewhat overshadowed by his team-mate Sébastien Loeb's angry outburst against title rival Mikko Hirvonen.
Hirvonen stopped to change a tyre following a puncture on SS9, but by the time he resumed again, Loeb was practically right in his wheel tracks, and the multiple World Rally Champion found his vision impaired by the dust clouds kicked up from the Ford Fiesta RS WRC ahead. After falling to more than half a minute adrift of the lead as a result, the Frenchman then let his frustration get the better of him at the end-of-stage control point by nudging the rear bumper of Hirvonen's car.
“He has a puncture and [re-]started eight seconds in front of me and didn't let me pass [in order to] protect [Jari-Matti] Latvala,” fumed the 37-year-old, according to the official WRC website. “He destroyed my rally. He had the puncture not me. We can play for third only. It's finished. The only thing I can try to do is close the gap. We will try our best to push hard. We will see for tomorrow.”
“I'm sure Sébastien is really mad, but it happens, I'm sorry – we changed the tyre, the road was clear and we went,” countered world championship leader Hirvonen, whose two-minute delay has dropped the Finn from second to fourth and – barring major dramas for any of the three drivers in front of him – out-of-the-reckoning for a podium finish. “It's a big gap to the boys ahead, but if something happens to them then there is something to fight for, so I have to pick up more speed in the afternoon.”
Almost unnoticed amidst all of the controversy, Ogier quietly reassumed control of the event from overnight leader Latvala, and the defending winner now holds a slender 6.9-second advantage. The 27-year-old vowed to approach the day's remaining three stages with a blend of pace and caution, whilst Latvala remains confident of turning the tables again.
“We've managed to make a small gap on this one, but it's not a big gap,” mused Ogier. “We will try to continue like this and avoid a puncture.”
“Hopefully what time we have lost in the morning we won't lose again,” added 'road sweeper' Latvala. “If we can keep it equal in the afternoon, then hopefully it will be okay for tomorrow.”
Matthew Wilson has leapfrogged M-Sport Stobart team-mate Henning Solberg in the pair's tight internecine duel over fifth – with the Norwegian complaining of a 'big noise' from the rear of his Fiesta following SS9 – whilst seventh-placed local hero Armindo Araújo has been slowed by a power-reducing engine glitch and a build-up of dust inside his MINI John Cooper Works Super 2000.
That has enabled ex-F1 World Champion Kimi Raikkonen to close to within less than eight seconds of the Portuguese ace – the Finn reporting himself to be much happier now with the behaviour of his Ice 1 Racing Citroën DS3 WRC – with Fiesta drivers Federico Villagra and Khalid Al Qassimi respectively ninth and tenth.
Further down the order, former World Rally Champion Petter Solberg – a man who knows all about punctures this weekend – is battling back strongly, recovering to 13th position after restarting under SupeRally regulations. Despite a spin on SS8, the Norwegian set the pace on SS9 as he demonstrates what might have been. Another heavily-delayed competitor – plucky privateer Mads Østberg – has similarly restarted following his early gearbox failure on Friday.
Rally de Portugal: Overall standings after Stage 10 (Top 10):
1. Sebastien Ogier Citroen Total WRT DS3 WRC 2hrs 11mins 59.9secs M
2. Jari-Matti Latvala Ford Abu Dhabi WRT Fiesta RS WRC +00mins 06.9secs M
3. Sebastien Loeb Citroen Total WRT DS3 WRC +00mins 30.7secs M
4. Mikko Hirvonen Ford Abu Dhabi WRT Fiesta RS WRC +02mins 17.9secs M
5. Matthew Wilson M-Sport Stobart Ford Fiesta RS WRC +03mins 37.3secs A0
6. Henning Solberg M-Sport Stobart Ford Fiesta RS WRC +03mins 42.9secs M
7. Armindo Araújo Motorsport Italia/BAMP Mini John Cooper Works S2000 +06mins 27.7secs A1
8. Kimi Raikkonen ICE1 Racing Citroen DS3 WRC +06mins 35.6secs M
9. Federico Villagra Munchis Ford WRT Fiesta RS WRC +06mins 51.7secs M
10. Khalid Al-Qassimi Team Abu Dhabi Fiesta RS WRC +07mins 57.8secs M
11. Dennis Kuipers FERM Powertools Ford Fiesta RS WRC +09mins 06.6secs M
13. Petter Solberg PSWRT Citroen DS3 WRC +11mins 21.6secs M
14. Anders Grondal Subaru Impreza STi +12mins 20.9secs P
24. Peter Van Merksteijn Van Merksteijn Citroen DS3 WRC +19mins 52.9secs M
33. Daniel Oliveira Brazil WRT Mini John Cooper Works S2000 +24mins 09.4secs M
53. Mads Ostberg M-Sport Stobart Ford Fiesta RS WRC +32mins 23.1secs M
PWRC standings after Stage 10 (Top 3):
1. Hayden Paddon Subaru Impreza STI 2hrs 21mins 12.5secs P
2. Anders Grondal Subaru Impreza STi +03mins 08.3secs P
3. Benito Guerra Mitsubishi Lancer Evo X +05mins 46.7secs P
WRC Academy standings after Stage 10 (Top 3):
1. Alastair Fisher Ford Fiesta R2 2hrs 32mins 30.2secs A
2. Victor Henriksson Ford Fiesta R2 +01mins 31.0secs A
3. Egon Kaur Ford Fiesta R2 +01mins 43.4secs A
Bernardo Sousa Team Quinta do Lorde Fiesta RS WRC Accident on SS7 A0
Ken Block Monster WRT Ford Fiesta RS WRC Crashed in shakedown
all times unofficial
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