Volkswagen's Sebastien Ogier increased his advantage slightly this afternoon and he will now take a 26.9 second cushion into the final day of Rally Sweden, the second round in the 2013 World Rally Championship.
Ogier's overnight lead was trimmed from 31.4 seconds to 25.2 seconds this morning, however, on the repeat runs, the Frenchman left no doubt as to who was in charge, setting the joint quickest time in SS13, before winning outright SS14 and SS15. The Polo R WRC pilot then concluded the day with the second best time in SS16, Hagfors Sprint 2, just 1.1 seconds off the pace.
“Up until now it has really been a perfect rally for us. The car is simply brilliant, which makes it a joy to drive quickly,” Ogier said. “There is no reason for me to go all out on the attack. Despite this, we are still putting our foot down, as the opposition is applying plenty of pressure. Sebastien Loeb, in particular, is one man you can never write off. If you take your foot off the gas, you risk losing your rhythm.
“We found good pace on today's stages, particularly on the second run. That will be our task for tomorrow too – after all, we still have just short of 100 kilometres of special stage ahead of us.”
Sebastien Loeb meanwhile is now an equally comfortable second, more than 30-seconds up on Mads Ostberg. The Citroen man however, is still annoyed about the time he lost on Friday morning.
“We [Ogier and I] both had a perfect day, but the gap was established yesterday. We paid for our poor performance in qualifying throughout the first leg,” admitted the nine-time World Rally champion. “Once again though, we really enjoyed ourselves in the car. The stages were magnificent even though we had the odd close shave in a few places.”
After his problems in the first loop yesterday, Qatar M-Sport WRT man, Mads Ostberg has been on a charge and the Norwegian closed to within 1.5 seconds of Latvala's VW Polo this morning. He then moved ahead in SS14, finishing the leg 6.1 seconds in front.
“I think we can be happy with the job we have done today,” Ostberg remarked. “We achieved our objective, which was to climb into the top three, and have managed to increase the gap to Jari-Matti. I'm really looking forward to tomorrow's Norwegian stages now, but realistically I think we need to concentrate on our own pace and holding onto this position. Loeb and Ogier have been setting some really good times and they will be difficult to catch now. I will continue to fight, but we also need to think. You cannot win a rally on a single stage, but you can for sure lose one!”
“I am not entirely happy today,” Latvala added. “This is because I must work on my performance, rather than that of the Polo R WRC. The car's performance is there, but knowing exactly where the limit is has not yet become second nature to me. Because our rival Mads Ostberg was on such good form today, we lost third place to him. However, we have almost another 100 kilometres ahead of us tomorrow, and the gap is not that big. Let's see what happens on Sunday.”