Citroen's Sebastien Loeb has seen his overnight lead on the Acropolis Rally reduced from 6.5 seconds to just 2.2 going into the mid-day service.
Loeb started well this morning and was quickest in the first test of the day to extend his advantage over Jari-Matti Latvala to 7.6 seconds. Latvala struck back though in the next two stages, slashing the margin to just 1 second post-SS12. Although the Frenchman responded in SS13 and topped the times, 1.2 seconds faster than his Ford rival, the battle remains wide open going into the 30-minute mid-day service in Loutraki.
“We had a big fight with Jari Matti this morning,” said Loeb after Ziria 1. “It's very difficult. We are going flat out. I pushed over the limit in some places.”
“In the rough sections I drove at 95 per cent and when conditions were better I went flat out,” Latvala added. “It's important to know when to be careful and when to attack. I know I can go faster but I also know that if you attack too much and hit one of the big rocks, then that could be game over. It was rough this morning but it will be worse this afternoon for the second pass. I made some good set-up changes to the car last night and I'm happy with the way it feels. I won't make any more changes now.”
Petter Solberg meanwhile remains third and while he has dropped a few seconds to Loeb and Latvala ahead, he has also managed to stretch the gap to Mikko Hirvonen in fourth. Indeed the two are now split by over a minute.
“If anything I was too careful in stage 11, which was the roughest,” said Norwegian. “It's still so close that if I can take a couple of seconds back on each stage this afternoon, then anything is possible. But it will be even rougher, so I must take that into account as one mistake could ruin everything. The team did a great job repairing the car last night and it feels perfect today.”
Behind, Martin Prokop and Mads Ostberg are squabbling over fifth, the latter 2.4 seconds ahead after the loop. Both though are a long way off P4, 5 minutes adrift. Nasser Al-Attiyah holds seventh, with VW Motorsport duo Sebastien Ogier and Andreas Mikkelsen eighth and ninth. Thierry Neuville completes the top ten.
Evgeny Novikov was the biggest loser this morning, forced out before SS13 due to a water pump failure. The Russian had been in a comfortable fifth in his M-Sport Ford Fiesta. It is not yet known if he will be able to rejoin under the Rally 2 regulations on Sunday, as team-mate Ott Tanak did this morning.
As for the support categories, Nicolas Fuchs remains top in the PWRC, almost 5 minutes up on Valeriy Gorban, while in the WRC Academy, which has now finished, Elfyn Evans took the victory - 2 minutes 15.9 seconds up on Alastair Fisher.
The Acropolis Rally now continues this afternoon with a repeat run through this morning's four stages. SS14, Klenia Mycenae 2, is due to start at 15.17 hours local time [13.17 hours UK time].
Acropolis Rally: Overall standings after Stage 13 (Top 10):
1. Sebastien Loeb
Citroen Total WRT DS3 WRC 3hours 04mins 31.8secs
2. Jari-Matti Latvala
Ford WRT Fiesta RS WRC +00mins 02.2secs
3. Petter Solberg
Ford WRT Fiesta RS WRC +00mins 20.1secs
4. Mikko Hirvonen
Citroen Total WRT DS3 WRC +01mins 06.1secs
5. Martin Prokop
Ford Fiesta RS WRC +06mins 28.0secs
6. Mads Ostberg
Adapta WRT Fiesta RS WRC +06mins 30.4secs
7. Nasser Al-Attiyah
Qatar WRT Citroen DS3 WRC +07mins 02.94secs
8. Sebastien Ogier
VW Motorsport Skoda Fabia S2000 +08mins 02.5secs
9. Andreas Mikkelsen
VW Motorsport Skoda Fabia S2000 +09mins 29.3secs
10. Thierry Neuville
Citroen Junior WRT DS3 WRC +09mins 29.3secs
11. Evgeny Novikov
M-Sport Ford WRT Fiesta RS WRC +09mins 43.3secs
12. Armindo Araujo
WRC MINI Team Portugal John Cooper Works WRC +13mins 31.5secs
15. Nicolas Fuchs
Mitsubishi Lancer Evo IX +22mins 50.1secs
16. Ott Tanak
M-Sport Ford WRT Fiesta RS WRC +23mins 11.8secs
19. Valeriy Gorban
Mitsubishi Lancer Evo IX +27mins 46.6secs
PWRC standings after Stage 13 - Top 3:
1. Nicolas Fuchs
Mitsubishi Lancer Evo IX 3hours 27mins 21.9secs
2. Valeriy Gorban
Mitsubishi Lancer Evo IX +04mins 56.5secs
3. Subhan Aksa
Mitsubishi Lancer Evo X +05mins 41.7secs
SS3. Daniel Oliveira
Brazil WRT Ford Fiesta RS WRC Retired from leg – driver ill
SS7/SS8. Ott Tanak
M-Sport Ford WRT Fiesta RS WRC Went off road
SS10. Paulo Nobre
WRC MINI Team Portugal John Cooper Works WRC Suspension
SS12/SS13. Evgeny Novikov
M-Sport Ford WRT Fiesta RS WRC Mechanical
* denotes re-started under Rally 2
all times unofficial