2 August 2013
Rally Finland: Ogier assumes control as rivals wilt
Sebastien Ogier appears to hold a commanding advantage as Rally Finland completes its second day.
World Rally Championship leader Sebastien Ogier has set himself up for victory number five of the 2013 season – provided he can avoid the sort of pitfalls that only seemed to strike at his rivals on day two of Rally Finland.
The Volkswagen team leader had been second to Thierry Neuville overnight, briefly took the lead before once again settling in behind a Ford as Mads Ostberg took the morning spoils as day two opened with the first running of the Jukojärvi, Palsankylä, Mökkiperä and Lankamaa stages. When the return run started, however, Ogier was able to make his move as the roads began to take their toll.
Having trailed by just 0.8secs, being fastest through Jukojärvi 2 by 4.6secs was comfortably enough to move the points leader to the head of the field, and acing the remaining four tests – including the short superspecial at Killeri – was enough to cement his position. However, it was the misfortune around him that proved the catalyst to turning his previous deficit into a 38.1secs advantage heading into the third and final day.
“Today was great for us,” Ogier noted, “We put our foot down, but did not push ourselves right to the very limit. The roads were very rough and difficult, particularly in the afternoon. The risk of getting a puncture was simply too great for an unconditional attack. Picking up points towards the world championship is obviously the top priority, but I want to try to fulfil my dream of winning the Rally Finland for the first time.
“More than 30 seconds is really a good lead over the second-placed driver, but the rally still has a long way to go. This is particularly true as the legendary Ouninpohja special stage still awaits us twice tomorrow – for me, the absolute highlight of this weekend. I can hardly wait to finally drive here in a World Rally Car….”
Having used the first pass of the stages to double check his notes, losing his lead as a result, Neuville, in particular, suffered in the early afternoon stages, lamenting a lack of torque in Palsankylä 2 before then suffering a puncture after a hard landing in Mökkiperä. That incident alone cost him 15secs to Ogier, but he was able to regain third in the overall classification when Mikko Hirvonen suffered his own problems a stage later, and the moved back into the role as chief pursuer to the leader with another strong showing through Lankamaa, where Ostberg took his turn to be the victim of the ruts. Consolidating on the superspecial was enough to secure Neuville P2 by 0.9secs.
“Today has been a good day,” the Belgian insisted, “I think I was sleeping a little bit in the first stage but, once I found the rhythm, I felt really confident, especially this afternoon. Then we got a puncture on SS13….
“When we landed a jump, the tyre came off the rim and we had to slow down a bit. It was a shame, but this is rallying and sometimes these things happen. Of course, I want to fight to stay on the podium tomorrow, but it will be a really difficult day. On Ouninpohja last year, we lost a minute-and-a-half to the fastest drivers and I think it will be difficult for us again this year. If we are still on the podium tomorrow night, I think it will be another great result for us – whether it's second, third or first, it doesn't matter.”
Ostberg recovered from his SS13 mishap – which had prompted him to declare the event 'a lottery' – to hold to third overnight, comfortably ahead of Hirvonen. Things had looked good for the Qatar M-Sport WRT driver as he transformed third on day one into the lead at the halfway point of day two, but he had already shipped a twelve-second advantage to Ogier before Lankamaa, where a broken wheel rim left him with a deflated left front tyre and another 26secs leaking away with the air.
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