Ford's Markko Martin has ended leg two of the Corona Rally Mexico today [Saturday] in the lead, following Sebastien Loeb's retirement in between stage six and stage seven.
Martin started the day fourth after Petter Solberg
was handed a penalty, dropping him from the top of the pack to 13th. The Estonian enjoyed a largely trouble free-leg, his biggest difficulty coming towards the end of stage eight, when smoke started to fill the car.
"It was a strange morning. I finished yesterday in fifth, started this morning in fourth and then within two stages I was leading," commented Martin, "But I'm not complaining! My driving was better than yesterday but still not perfect. I'm fighting against myself and still can't find exactly the right rhythm so it was all a bit messy sometimes.
"We always have to hope, but to expect a lead like this yesterday was too optimistic to think about. It's a good example of how unpredictable rallying is. We have to expect the unexpected and hope it doesn't happen to us. It's been hard work today, certainly not a joy ride, but I'm happy and I have to ensure I don't make a mistake tomorrow."
While Martin was 'joyous', Loeb had a disastrous day, the Frenchman's car landed on a rock after a jump on stage six. The impact cracked the sump and although the crew tried to make repairs on the following liaison section, the oil leaked from the engine and they retired. He had been leading by over 30 seconds.
"Coming out of a very fast corner, the car took off," explained the Frenchman, "Where it touched back down, the road was cambered, with, in the middle, a rock solidly set in the compacted earth. The lower protection was lifted up, and the oil emptied out of the damaged sump.
"Of course, this [retirement] is a great disappointment. We were leading, setting our pace on that of Markko. Yesterday, Petter's problems put me in the lead. Today, I'm the one to suffer bad luck. The outcome of a rally sometimes depends on fate. You have to learn to accept it."
His team-mate Carlos Sainz now takes up the mantle for Citroen, the Spaniard second at the end of the day, despite a tyre mix up, which meant he drove the afternoon stages on the same rubber he used in morning when his team mistakenly nominated exactly the same tyres.
"Starting off for this third loop [SS8, 9 and 10], I did my best to get rid over any pressure from the 'tyre incident'," he noted, "I tried to go as quickly as possible while managing the tyres. Today, the rally has had its fair share of surprises. It could be the same again tomorrow. Nothing is over yet - it is still all to play for!"