17 January 2013
Loeb consolidates lead
Sebastien Loeb concludes second day with two more stage wins and stretches his lead to 1 minute 35 seconds; Sebastien Ogier continues to hold second, with Dani Sordo third, 15.2secs up on Evgeny Novikov; Mikko Hirvonen rounds out the top five...
Citroen's Sebastien Loeb has increased his advantage on Rallye Monte Carlo to 1 minute 35 seconds at the close of day two.
Loeb more or less maintained his overnight lead this morning, but this afternoon on the repeat loop he stretched it out a bit more, winning SS8 and SS10, while he was third in SS9, and again quicker than his closest rival, Volkswagen's Sebastien Ogier. As a result Loeb now heads back to service in Valence with another 17.1 seconds added to his cushion.
“I said yesterday that there were still three long days to go; well, now there are only two left!" Loeb remarked. "We couldn't have hoped for things to go better today on such a tricky course. We could have lost a lot of time if we had made a mistake, but we managed to avoid that.”
Ogier meanwhile was also pleased, and given Loeb is only due to do four events this season, second would still be a very good result for the championship, especially as this is VW's first event with the Polo R WRC.
“Today's conditions on the 'Monte' were even more difficult than yesterday. The fact that once again won the first stage of the day in so much wind, ice and drifting snow was another welcome surprise. Although we took a cautious approach, we still had a spin in a left-hander on the second stage of the day. Despite that, the rally has been perfect for us so far," Ogier stated. "It will be even more perfect when we reach the finish on Saturday evening. Until then I will be concentrating solely on myself.”
Dani Sordo is next up in his Citroen DS3 WRC and locked in a good fight for third with Qatar M-Sport WRT man Evgeny Novikov. The two are split by just 15.2 seconds at the end of SS10, although the gap had been as little as 7.6 seconds following the first loop this morning.
"I am never happy, especially when there are two drivers way ahead of me," Sordo noted. "But we have still had a good day, going quickly without making any mistakes.”
“It has been a very good day for us. There were some quite interesting conditions on the stages and it was very slippery, but there are still two days to go. It's a long rally and we will fight on for sure. This is Rallye Monte-Carlo and to go well here you have to be confident and enjoy driving the stages. Now, I am on a mission. I am really enjoying the stages and looking forward to tomorrow – there is no question that I will be fighting for third position in the days to come,” added Novikov, who was quickest in SS6 and SS7 this morning, and second in SS9 this afternoon.
Behind, Mikko Hirvonen was not at all happy and while he did manage the fourth quickest time in SS8 – his best of the day – he was back down the order and only ninth and sixth in SS9 and SS10: “It has been really difficult,” the Finn stated. “It is not so often I feel so bad. Finishing the day in fifth position is frustrating. I am still short on confidence and that is stopping me from having the same pace as the leading guys.”
Fellow countryman and former Ford team-mate, Jari-Matti Latvala wasn't a happy bunny either, and lies sixth overnight. He also had a day to forget and even the third fastest time in SS10 didn't improve his spirits much: “I tried a softer car set-up on the first three special stages of the day. Unfortunately that resulted in some edgy and inaccurate handling," explained the VW pilot. "On top of that, we picked up a puncture on the very first stage this morning after hitting a stone that we were unable to avoid at a very narrow point on the route. In doing so I stalled the engine briefly. That explains the lost time. After that we found a better rhythm. I have had an idea how we can adapt the set-up to better suit my driving style tomorrow.”
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