Citroen's Sebastien Loeb has finished day two of Rally Argentina with a commanding lead and he now looks well poised to secure his eighth win in succession on the event.
Loeb took the lead this morning in SS7, and then won both stages this afternoon to consolidate his position at the head of the pack. Following the short 6.04 km SSS this evening, he will now take a 39.8 second advantage into the final leg, which comprises two stages, both to be run twice, and a total competitive distance of 77.92 kilometres.
“I drove flat out this morning, because I felt really comfortable in the car. Generally speaking, the grip was good, but we had to be cautious in the muddy sections. I made a mistake on the day's first stage, and then my rival made one on the next stage,” Loeb said.
“This afternoon, as I still felt really good, I decided to push because I knew I could pull clear. A 40-second lead seems pretty healthy to me and means I start the final day in a strong position. But it's not over yet!” he added.
Volkswagen man Sebastien Ogier meanwhile is second, and well aware that with Loeb only doing a limited number of events this season, the runners-up spot will allow him to strengthen his considerable lead in the Drivers' Championship.
“We lost a bit of time during the seventh special stage today. We skidded off the course on a long right-hand bend. Luckily, we were able to reverse and keep going. It's a shame to lose the lead like that, of course, but it's all part of rallying. We're still ahead of our immediate opponents in the championship classifications, so we have the chance to keep collecting valuable points. And that's precisely what we aim to do tomorrow,” Ogier remarked.
Evgeny Novikov holds a distant third for the Qatar M-Sport World Rally Team, just 8.2 seconds ahead of Jari-Matti Latvala.
“I didn't expect to be in third position by the end of the day, but obviously I am very happy to be here! The stages were very difficult today – especially on the second pass – and there were a lot of rocks to look out for. Luckily we made it through with no problems,” Novikov stated. “The plan now is to defend our position and fight to keep Jari-Matti behind us. It won't be easy, but we will try our best as always.”
“It was another long and varied day's rallying,” Latvala added. “We didn't cope with the slow stretches very well this morning, but things went much better this afternoon after we made a few changes to our set-up. Then just as third place seemed within reach, we were set back by one of the tyres, which was damaged when we landed after a jump. I went straight back on the attack in the last stage and managed to regain ground on the team in third. We're only 8.2 seconds behind Novikov and I'm already looking forward to tomorrow's duel.”
Behind, Thierry Neuville rounds out the top five, ahead of Mikko Hirvonen and Mads Ostberg, the former losing time this afternoon first with a puncture and then with an electrical problem.