14 November 2013
Wales Rally GB: Ogier grabs early lead
Sebastien Ogier completes Thursday's short opening leg with a 3.2 second lead over Thierry Neuville; Jari-Matti Latvala lies third, 2 seconds further back, with Mikko Hirvonen and Mads Ostberg fourth and fifth respectively.
Volkswagen driver Sebastien Ogier heads the pack on Wales Rally GB following the first three night stages this evening.
Ogier, who was quickest in qualifying this morning and who opted to run second in the order, completed the opening test, the 6.95 kilometre Gwydyr stage, in 4 minutes 43.1 seconds, 1.3 seconds up on team-mate, Jari-Matti Latvala. The Frenchman was then quickest again in SS2, 0.9 seconds up Latvala, who was again 'best of the rest'. Ogier then had to settle for second in SS3, 0.4 seconds off Thierry Neuville, and he now heads back to service with a 3.2 second lead.
“A great start to the Wales Rally GB for us,” said Ogier. “It didn't take me long to find my rhythm after qualifying. Whatever happens here, I can take a very relaxed approach. Wales Rally GB is not normally one of my favourites. It is very easy to make a mistake and crash out. For this reason, it is particularly important to adopt the mindset that the rally is not over until the very last stage. It was not easy in the dark today, and it is extremely slippery on the muddy gravel roads.
“The coming days will definitely be a real challenge – particularly on Saturday and Sunday, when we are on the road all day without a midday service. This puts a lot of strain on the car and tyres.”
Behind, Neuville moved ahead of Latvala and up into P2 overall in the final test of the loop and now lies 2 seconds ahead, despite a brief excursion into a ditch in SS1 and despite hitting a huge rock in SS2.
“It has been a difficult evening but we are quite happy with our pace,” Neuville noted. “Of course it is slippery and you need to be careful in every corner, but so far so good. We had a bit of a moment on the second stage when we cut a corner and hit the underneath of the car. We had a small issue with the gearlever after that, but the car seems to be very strong! I thought that it was over for us, but the car was still going and we went on to set the quickest time in the next stage [SS3].
“Tomorrow is another day and its stages are well known to the other drivers so I hope it is not a disadvantage to us. We've only rallied them once but we are well prepared and we will try and stay in the fight.”
“After qualifying, I opted to start first – and this decision appears to have been the right one,” Latvala added. “I was able to match the pace of Sebastien and Thierry, who had decided to start later. The three of us at the front of the field have been involved in a really close tussle so far. The night stages were quite tricky: sections with good grip alternated with some very slippery spots. Finding the right rhythm for these conditions and pacing yourself intelligently is the key to being successful here in Great Britain. The first two stages went really well for us, but it was a bit more slippery on the third. Despite this, I think starting first will still be a good decision come tomorrow.”
Citroen's Mikko Hirvonen meanwhile is fourth, already 11 seconds off P3 and 16.2 seconds off Ogier: “I wanted to be further up with my road position, it is really not easy and this test [SS3] has to be the slippiest of the three stages,” Mikko noted. “I must admit I found it very difficult. We were trying things with the car and trying to find a good rhythm. We'll see how it goes tomorrow.”
Mads Ostberg rounds out the top five in his Qatar M-Sport WRT Fiesta RS WRC, despite gearshift issues, with VW junior driver, Andreas Mikkelsen sixth and former F1 ace, Robert Kubica seventh on his first outing in a current generation WRC car.
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