Citroen privateer Petter Solberg increased his lead on the Acropolis Rally this afternoon and following a dramatic final stage he will now start day two with a massive 51.6 second advantage.
Solberg began the seventh round in the 2011 World Rally Championship in style by winning the first two tests in his Citroen DS3 WRC car to head into the mid-day RSZ (remote service zone) with a 20.3 second lead over Jari-Matti Latvala. The Norwegian then pushed on this afternoon, winning SS3 and SS4, and setting the second best times in SS5 and SS6. He thus concludes the opening leg in a highly promising position and it might have been even better had he not lost time behind the limping Latvala in Mavrolimni.
“I had to drive a long time behind Latvala [in SS6],” Solberg confirmed. “That was very bad. But it is okay - we have a good lead for tomorrow.
“Overall I'm very happy with the day. I had a good starting position and planned to make the most of it! It will be another tough day tomorrow, the stages are very rough, and I will have to be cautious to keep my lead.”
Sebastien Loeb meanwhile heads the chasing pack and is second, having been 'gifted' the place after both Mikko Hirvonen and Sebastien Ogier opted to slow in the final test of the day in order to have a better road position for tomorrow. Loeb, who had to play the sweeper all day and who picked up a puncture in SS5, now lies 3.7s up on Hirvonen, with Ogier a further 1.9 seconds back.
“It was difficult being first, but despite our two punctures I reckon we've come out of it well,” Loeb said. “Petter Solberg is the only one to have taken full advantage of his position. It's going to be difficult to knock him off the top of the time sheets. Where I'm concerned it's looking more complicated as Mikko Hirvonen and Sébastien Ogier are only a few seconds behind. But there's no question of lifting off, there are several challenges to take up tomorrow and Sunday!”
“We've managed to avoid all today's pitfalls and we've got a good position for tomorrow,” Ogier added, “but the toughest part is still to come! We'll have to push very hard to pass Mikko and Seb. As for Petter I think it'll be very difficult to catch him in normal circumstances.”
Further back, Henning Solberg rounds out the top five on his return, albeit more than 45 seconds off P4.
“Everything is working well – we've not really had any problems today and it has been a good day overall,” said Henning. “There were no major changes made to the car at the remote service, we were quite happy with the feeling but we knew that the afternoon would be much harder.
“We had a couple of big mistakes on that last stage but no other problems. Tonight I just want to have a good sleep and I need to physically push tomorrow so hopefully we can continue with some good times.”