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Latvala ekes out advantage in Sweden
11 February 2012
Ford's Jari-Matti Latvala remains out front on Rally Sweden and following the opening loop this morning the Finn has stretched his lead slightly.
Latvala began the second leg with a 16.8 second advantage over his former team-mate Mikko Hirvonen, but after winning two of the four stages now heads back to Hagfors for the 30 minute mid-day service with the gap up to 18.6 seconds.
“It's a big battle with Mikko,” said Latvala. “The pressure is on, but I like it this way. It's good to lead now, but I have to keep this position to the end of the rally. That's what matters. There's a bit of a mental game between us before the stages. Of course we talk to each other, but it's more serious now than when we were team-mates. It wasn't comfortable in the narrow sections because the ruts don't have much snow in them. If I tried to move out of the ruts then the car started to slide.”
Hirvonen meanwhile continues to set good times in his Citroen DS3 WRC car and was second quickest in SS11 and SS12 and fastest in SS13. The Finn was happy with his morning, although not so pleased to be only ninth in SS14.
“Our times are more or less the same. I take a second off him on one stage, and then he takes it back on the next, so the gap remains consistent,” Hirvonen remarked. “I don't think I can push much harder, I am driving very close to the limit. This afternoon, I'll be careful to look after my tyres. That could be a decisive point, like it was yesterday.”
Petter Solberg is next up and holds third, although the Norwegian has slipped further behind Mikko, with the margin between them increasing from just 1.8 seconds last night to 21.3 seconds going into service. 'Hollywood' had no major problems, but couldn't match Hirvonen's pace. He also stalled at the start of SS12, which did little to help his cause.
“It was a good morning, but not perfect,” Solberg stated. “I need to push hard this afternoon to put pressure on Mikko and try to close on him. I've made a few small adjustments in service for the afternoon. It was tricky in the snow and because conditions were difficult, I drove too cautiously.”
Behind Mads Ostberg is fourth in his Adapta WRT-run Ford Fiesta RS WRC car and he lies just 7.1 seconds off Solberg.
“There have not been any big issues for us this morning," said Ostberg. "I think it is all going quite well. We suffered a problem with a tyre before we got to the first stage – we saw it in tyre marking as we went out of service so we had no option but to change it. We were running a used tyre on the left-hand rear so that was a little bit tricky but we used it all the way through this morning and still tried to push and do a good run so it's all been okay.
“We'll try now to make some changes to the car to get it better for the second pass and hopefully that will be the right thing because we need to keep up with Petter's [Solberg] speed on the second pass. We are catching Petter and I am happy with that, but we need to catch more.”
M-Sport Ford WRT man Evgeny Novikov rounds out the top-five, albeit almost a minute adrift of P4.
“This morning has been okay. Everything is fine and we are just pushing now. We'll try to improve on the second pass but everything is fine," Novikov commented. “The conditions aren't too bad and now we are just concentrating on improving the times and getting another good result.”
Henning Solberg in another Fiesta is sixth, 45 seconds off Novikov and only 12.1 seconds up on Sebastien Loeb, who is further back than normal after his off yesterday in SS7, which cost the Citroen man almost 5 minutes. Loeb tried to push this morning, but over did it in SS12 and spun, losing 10-15 seconds. He responded immediately though, and was third quickest in the next stage and second in the Hagfors Sprint 1, 2.2 seconds off Ott Tanak, who took his very first stage win. Tanak, however, is well out of position after offs in SS2 and SS12, which cost him over 30 minutes!
Of the rest, Patrik Sandell is the top MINI runner in eighth, followed by Martin Prokop and Eyvind Brynildsen in ninth and tenth respectively. Sebastien Ogier is just outside the top ten in his VW Motorsport-run Skoda Fabia S2000, followed by his team-mate, Andreas Mikkelsen, Armindo Araujo and P-G Andersson, who continues to dominate the SWRC class in his Proton Satria Neo S2000.
There were no major retirements this morning, although a number of runners did re-start under Rally 2, including WRC MINI Team Portugal man Paulo Nobre and Britain's Alister McRae. Both though are well down the order after their early exits on Friday.
The action now continues this afternoon with a repeat run through this morning's four tests. SS15, the 24.063 km Vargasen 2 stage, is due to start at 13.46 hours local time [12.46 hours British time].Rally Sweden: Overall standings after Stage 14 (Top 10):
1. Jari-Matti Latvala
Ford WRT Fiesta RS WRC 1hour 57mins 11.7secs
2. Mikko Hirvonen
Citroen Total WRT DS3 WRC +00mins 18.6secs
3. Petter Solberg
Ford WRT Fiesta RS WRC +00mins 39.9secs
4. Mads Ostberg
Adapta WRT Fiesta RS WRC +00mins 47.1secs
5. Evgeny Novikov
M-Sport Ford WRT Fiesta RS WRC +01mins 46.4secs
6. Henning Solberg
Go Fast Energy WRT Fiesta RS WRC +02mins 31.4secs
7. Sebastien Loeb
Citroen Total WRT DS3 WRC +02mins 43.5secs
8. Patrik Sandell
Prodrive MINI John Cooper Works WRC +03mins 14.3secs
9. Martin Prokop
Czech Ford National Team Fiesta RS WRC +03mins 37.3secs
10. Eyvind Brynildsen
Ford Fiesta RS WRC +04mins 09.4secsOthers
11. Sebastien Ogier
VW Motorsport Skoda Fabia S2000 +04mins 38.4secs
12. Andreas Mikkelsen
VW Motorsport Skoda Fabia S2000 +04mins 50.9secs
13. Armindo Araujo
WRC MINI Team Portugal John Cooper Works WRC +06mins 07.9secs
14. P-G Andersson
Proton Motorsport Satria Neo S2000 +06mins 17.5secs
15. Thierry Neuville
Citroen Junior WRT DS3 WRC +06mins 18.1secs
16. Craig Breen
Ford Fiesta S2000 +08mins 09.7secs
17. Peter Van Merksteijn
Van Merksteijn Citroen DS3 WRC +08mins 36.5secs
18. Mikko Pajunen
Subaru Impreza STi R4 +08mins 57.6secs
19. Michal Solowow
M-Sport Ford WRT Fiesta RS WRC +09mins 11.3secs
20. Pontus Tidemund
Skoda Fabia S2000 +10mins 24.8secs
SSWRC standings after Stage 14 - Top 3:
1. P-G Andersson
Proton Motorsport Satria Neo S2000 2hours 03mins 29.2secs
2. Craig Breen
Ford Fiesta S2000 +01mins 52.2secs
3. Pontus Tidemund
Skoda Fabia S2000 +04mins 07.3secs
SS2. Paulo Nobre
WRC MINI Team Portugal John Cooper Works WRC Went off
SS8. Jari Ketomaa
Ford Fiesta RS WRC Accident
SS8. Dani Sordo
Prodrive MINI John Cooper Works WRC Engine
* denotes able to re-start under Rally 2 (new name for SupeRally)all times unofficial