Citroen's Sebastien Loeb has concluded the second leg of the Acropolis Rally of Greece in the lead, although Petter Solberg put in a charge this afternoon and halved the Frenchman's advantage.
Loeb began day two with a 6.5 second cushion, but on the first loop Jari-Matti Latvala slashed that to 2.2 seconds. Latvala's bid for victory, however, came to an end in the first test this afternoon when he made a mistake and hit a bank. That incident left him with a slow puncture and near the end he had to stop and change it, costing him over 3 minutes and any chance of fighting for the win. After his misfortune, Petter Solberg took over the mantle as Loeb's main rival and with torrential rain transforming the rocky roads into a mud bath, 'Hollywood' went on the attack. Indeed he won the final three tests and in the process reduced the 21.9 second gap to just 10.2 seconds.
“The afternoon was very tricky.” Loeb said after SS17. “There was a lot of mud in the special stages. The gravel in some places was okay, in some others not. I lost time due to the rain, but we still have a 10 second advantage for tomorrow.”
“I made some small detailed improvements to the car [in the mid-day service] and it made a huge difference,” Solberg added. “After losing 14sec on Thursday and 10sec yesterday, to lie just 10sec from the lead tonight isn't so bad. It will be a big fight tomorrow and I'm feeling confident. The stages will suit me and I really want to win.”
Mikko Hirvonen is on course for the final place on the podium, albeit now almost 2 minutes adrift of his team-mate. Hirvonen had a pretty average day, after struggling in the morning with his DS3 WRC.
Latvala is next up following his problems in SS14 and he now lies almost 3 minutes off P3 and a similar amount up on Mads Ostberg in fifth.
“It [the impact with the bank] happened in a medium speed left corner,” Latvala explained. “It was uphill and I went into it too fast. I thought if I carried more speed into the corner, I would be faster in the uphill exit. But the car touched a bank and the tyre soon started to come off the rim. It eventually came off completely and the rocky road broke the wheel, so I had to stop to change it. It was disappointing after such a big fight for the lead. It has been a disappointing year, but I will keep fighting.”
Ostberg meanwhile got in front of Martin Prokop in SS15 this afternoon after the Czech driver lost the rear anti-roll bar: “This made the car very unstable,” Prokop explained. “It was not possible to go fast because the balance of the car was very tricky. We were cruising through to the finish, but we are happy with this position – it is perfect.”
Further back, Citroen Junior WRT driver Thierry Neuville has climbed up to seventh, with Sebastien Ogier eighth in his VW Motorsport-run Skoda Fabia S2000, despite losing the power steering in SS15. Yazeed Al-Rajhi, who is running in a Ford Fiesta RRC, lies ninth, with Andreas Mikkelsen currently classified in tenth. Mikkelsen had to stop in SS16 due to a mechanical issue, but assuming he can continue under the Rally 2 rules, he could still claim a point.