Sébastien Ogier retains control of proceedings with just four stages of the 2011 edition of Rally Jordan left to run – but less than half-a-minute continues to blanket the leading quartet of contenders, as Jari-Matti Latvala has moved past Ogier's Citroën Total World Rally Team team-mate Sébastien Loeb into second place.
Despite enduring the disadvantage of having to run first-on-the-road as the overnight leader, Ogier still conceded just 13 seconds to his pursuers, aided by an uncharacteristic error from WRC 'record man' Loeb, who pushed hard from the 'off' in an effort to catch and overhaul his compatriot – but pushed just a little too hard on SS15 and missed the corner at a hairpin, causing him to surrender second place to Ford Abu Dhabi World Rally Team rival Latvala.
“I missed a stupid hairpin,” rued the deflated Frenchman, according to the championship's official website. “It's hard to see where to go. Now I have to continue to fight with the others behind. We have to push to pass second position again. This morning was our chance [to fight for the win], and we lost it.”
Loeb now runs just under two seconds behind Latvala after battling back on the morning's final stage, but if the defending world champion appears defeatist about his chances of victory still, Latvala is anything but.
“I'm starting to be afraid that I'll run out of kilometres – I really have to push – but I can still make it,” mused the Crash.net
Former World Rally Champion Petter Solberg similarly remains in-touch in fourth place – even if the Norwegian does not seem to have the outright pace to triumph on merit this weekend – and Latvala's team-mate Mikko Hirvonen continues to run a distant fifth having lost substantial time as Friday's 'road sweeper', although the Finn did prevail on two of Saturday morning's four stages.
Ex-F1 World Champion Kimi Raikkonen and M-Sport Stobart ace Matthew Wilson remain embroiled in a fierce nip-and-tuck, see-saw scrap over sixth position, as Fiesta RS WRC duo Federico Villagra and Khalid Al Qassimi similarly duel over eighth, with the Argentine encountering oil temperature issues. Dennis Kuipers completes the top ten in his Ferm Powertools Fiesta.
In S2000, meanwhile, there was heartbreak for runaway pace-setter Nasser Al-Attiyah – an eye-catching tenth overall overnight – for whom a misfire on Friday degenerated into something far worse on Saturday morning and put the Qatari out-of-contention as early as the day's first stage. His misfortune has elevated Bernardo Sousa into the SWRC lead, pursued by Karl Kruuda and Frigyes Turan.
“When I saw Nasser had stopped, it threw my concentration off,” revealed a candid Sousa. “I spun, and then I made more mistakes later in the stage. I haven't had a great morning.”
Rally Jordan: Overall standings after Stage 16 (Top 10):
1. Sebastien Ogier
Citroen Total WRT DS3 WRC 2hrs 11mins 11.7secs
2. Jari-Matti Latvala
Ford Abu Dhabi WRT Fiesta RS WRC +00mins 18.9secs
3. Sebastien Loeb
Citroen Total WRT DS3 WRC +00mins 20.7secs
4. Petter Solberg
PSWRT Citroen DS3 WRC +00mins 28.8secs
5. Mikko Hirvonen
Ford Abu Dhabi WRT Fiesta RS WRC +02mins 19.8secs
6. Kimi Raikkonen
ICE1 Racing Citroen DS3 WRC +04mins 12.9secs
7. Matthew Wilson
M-Sport Stobart Ford Fiesta RS WRC +04mins 23.2secs
8. Federico Villagra
Munchis Ford WRT Fiesta RS WRC +07mins 09.9secs
9. Khalid Al-Qassimi
Team Abu Dhabi Fiesta RS WRC +07mins 18.4secs
10. Dennis Kuipers
FERM Powertools Ford Fiesta RS WRC +10mins 41.4secs
11. Bernardo Sousa
Team Quinta do Lorde Fiesta S2000 +11mins 18.5secs
15. Mads Ostberg
M-Sport Stobart Ford Fiesta RS WRC +16mins 47.2secs
16. Henning Solberg
M-Sport Stobart Ford Fiesta RS WRC +21mins 28.4secs
SWRC standings after Stage 16 (Top 3):
1. Bernardo Sousa
Team Quinta do Lorde Fiesta S2000 2hrs 22mins 30.2secs
2. Karl Kruuda
ME3 Rally Team Skoda Fabia S2000 +00mins 38.8secs
3. Frigyes Turan
Turan Motorsport Fiesta S2000 +01mins 14.9secs
Barwa Rally Team Fiesta S2000
Peter Van Merksteijn
Van Merksteijn Citroen DS3 WRC
all times unofficial