Citroen number one driver Sebastien Loeb extended his lead this afternoon on Rally de Espana.
Loeb completed the morning loop 18.9 seconds up on Ford's Jari-Matti Latvala and on the repeat runs he was quicker than the Finn in all three stages – taking 2.1 seconds out of him in SS10, before than gaining another 3.1 seconds in SS11 and 2.9 seconds in SS12. Loeb will now go into the overnight service with a 27 second cushion and he looks well placed to end his full-time WRC career with a win.
“It went very well for me," Loeb said. "We were running on hard tyres [this afternoon] and it was a good choice, in spite of the damp patches. In some areas [in the last test], the exits of the corners were slippery, but I was very careful to keep Latvala under control. [Overall] I'm happy with my times, and I'll try to win the rally.”
Latvala meanwhile was just unable to match him, although he remains comfortably 'best of the rest' in his Fiesta RS: “I'm pushing and attacking as much as I can, but there's no way to catch Loeb,” Jari-Matti admitted post-SS12.
Mikko Hirvonen now holds third place in the second works Citroen DS3 WRC, albeit 47.1 seconds back: “I'm not cutting down my times as I'd like, though I'm quite happy overall,” the Finn remarked.
Behind, Mads Ostberg had a poor afternoon. The Norwegian, who led overnight, lost over a minute this morning in SS8, when he picked the wrong tyres and went off the road. He then struggled with set-up issues this afternoon and speaking after SS11 reported that his car was 'absolutely horrible'. After losing third to Hirvonen in El Priorat 2, he then conceded another place in SS12, finishing the day in fifth, 2.6 seconds behind fellow Ford runner, Ott Tanak.
“We changed the settings at the mid-day service, but the result was bad. That's why we've lost a couple of positions,” Ostberg confirmed.
Hans Weijs rounds out the top six in the Qatar WRT Citroen DS3 WRC, followed by SWRC leader, Craig Breen and Evgeny Novikov, who rejoined the action this morning under the Rally 2 regulations.
Jarkko Nikara and P-G Andersson complete the provisional points scorers, the former losing a place on the overall leaderboard in the final test, when he was 47.9 seconds off the pace. Still he remains on course for points in his Prodrive WRC Team-run MINI John Cooper Works WRC, 14 seconds behind Novikov.
Nikara's team-mate, Dani Sordo enjoyed a good afternoon, and after problems on Friday and power issues this morning, the Spaniard gave a glimpse of what might have been possible, after topping the times in SS10 and SS11. He was also third in SS12 too, just 0.7 seconds off Tanak. Sadly though, after all his earlier woes, the local hero is way down the order, in 18th place: “Now all problems are solved, I'm very happy about how the afternoon developed. I'm aware I can't finish very high, but I intend to do my best and enjoy the day tomorrow,” Sordo noted.
In the support categories, there are no changes - Breen remains comfortably out front in the SWRC, and similarly, Benito Guerra, has a commanding lead in the PWRC. Jose Suarez has won the WRC Academy class.
The event now concludes on Sunday, with six stages on the bill and a competitive distance of 93.94 km.
SS13, the 16.35 km Riudecanyes test, is due to start at 07.50 hours local time [06.50 hours UK time].
Rally de Espana: Overall standings after Stage 12 (Top 10):
1. Sebastien Loeb Citroen Total WRT DS3 WRC 3hours 16mins 14.1secs M
2. Jari-Matti Latvala Ford WRT Fiesta RS WRC +00mins 27.0secs M
3. Mikko Hirvonen Citroen Total WRT DS3 WRC +01mins 14.1secs M
4. Ott Tanak M-Sport Ford WRT Fiesta RS WRC +01mins 28.8secs M
5. Mads Ostberg Adapta WRT Fiesta RS WRC +01mins 31.4secs M
6. Han Weijs Qatar WRT Citroen DS3 WRC +09mins 02.9secs M
7. Craig Breen Ford Fiesta S2000 +12mins 26.2secs S
8. Evgeny Novikov Ford Fiesta RS WRC +13mins 25.1secs
9. Jarkko Nikara Prodrive WRC Team MINI John Cooper Works WRC +13mins 39.1secs
10. P-G Andersson Proton Satria Neo S2000 +15mins 45.5secs S
11. Chris Atkinson WRC MINI Team Portugal John Cooper Works WRC +16mins 41.4secs
12. Abdulaziz Alkuwari Seashore Qatar WRT MINI John Cooper Works WRC +24mins 36.8secs
13. Martin Prokop Czech Ford National Team Fiesta RS WRC +24mins 37.7secs
14. Benito Guerra Mitsubishi Lancer Evo X +25mins 23.4secs P
15. Petter Solberg Ford WRT Fiesta RS WRC +25mins 23.4secs M*
SWRC standings after Stage 12 (Top 3):
1. Craig Breen Ford Fiesta S2000 2hours 38mins 23.9secs S
2. P-G Andersson Proton Satria Neo S2000 +03mins 19.3secs S
3. Yazeed Al-Rajhi Ford Fiesta S2000 +13mins 28.3secs S
PWRC standings after Stage 12 (Top 3):
1. Benito Guerra Mitsubishi Lancer Evo X 3hours 41mins 15.3secs P
2. Subhan Aksa Mitsubishi Lancer Evo X +05mins 56.5secs P
3. Valeriy Gorban Mitsubishi Lancer Evo IX +06mins 24.9secs P
WRC Academy standings after Stage 12 (Top 3)#:
1. Jose Suarez Ford Fiesta R2 3hours 46mins 51.0secs A
2. Pontus Tidemand Ford Fiesta R2 +01mins 19.7secs A
3. Elfyn Evans Ford Fiesta R2 +03mins 22.3secs A
# WRC Academy event ended after SS12
SS2. Petter Solberg Ford WRT Fiesta RS WRC Hit a rock M*
SS2. Thierry Neuville Citroen Junior WRT Citroen DS3 WRC Hit a rock*
SS2. Andreas Mikkelsen VW Motorsport Skoda Fabia S2000 Hit a rock*
SS2/3. Martin Prokop Czech Ford National Team Fiesta RS WRC Crashed*
SS3. Daniel Oliveira Brazil WRT Ford Fiesta RS WRC Went off M*
SS3. Dani Sordo Prodrive WRC Team MINI John Cooper Works WRC Went off*
SS3/4. John Powell M-Sport Ford WRT Fiesta RS WRC Unwell M
SS4. Paulo Nobre WRC MINI Team Portugal John Cooper Works WRC Accident*
SS5. Evgeny Novikov Ford Fiesta RS WRC Went off*
SS5. Chris Atkinson WRC MINI Team Portugal John Cooper Works WRC Mechanical*
SS5/6. Sebastien Ogier VW Motorsport Skoda Fabia S2000 Stopped on road section
*denotes re-started under Rally 2
all times unofficial