Germany - leg 2: Loeb in command?
18 August 2007
Triple World champion, Sebastien Loeb ended day two of the Rallye Deutschland on Saturday well on course to win the event for the sixth year in succession.
Loeb took the lead back from his ex-team-mate, Francois Duval on the very first test this morning - and after the Belgian lost around 20 seconds with two spins, Seb found himself with a 15.2 second advantage.
The Frenchman then proceeded to increase the margin further in SS8 and went into the first remote service zone having pulled out a 24.9 second cushion. Following that Seb continued to set the standard and by the time the crews returned to the mid-day service he was 26.7 seconds up on his nearest challenger.
During the repeat runs in the afternoon, the Citroen man continued to inch further and further away and he eventually ended the day 37.8 seconds up on Marcus Gronholm.
Gronholm himself meanwhile also made progress during the second day moving up from third overnight to second.
Although the Finn dropped behind his team-mate, Mikko Hirvonen in SS7, after only setting the fifth quickest time, both managed to get the jump on Duval in SS8.
Marcus then went up to P2 in SS9, taking his first - and so far only - stage win of the event and with second in SS10, moved away from the battle for third. He eventually finished the day 12.6 seconds up on Duval.
Francois had a poor start this morning in his Kronos-run Citroen Xsara WRC, but recovered his composure as the day went on and despite severe pressure from Hirvonen, ended the day on course for third, 5.1 seconds up on the Finn.
The battle for the final place on the rostrum could well be the highlight of the day tomorrow - especially as Francois hasn't given up on trying too haul-in Gronholm either.
Further down the order, Jan Kopecky is on course for fifth in his privately entered Skoda Fabia WRC - albeit around 2 minutes off the Duval-Hirvonen duel. Jan reported a few engine problems this morning but still set some good times, including a fourth best effort in SS7 and in the end finished narrowly ahead of Toni Gardemeister.
Gardemeister slipped behind Kopecky in SS10 this morning due to hydraulic problems, which cost him around 20-30 seconds. Although he re-took fifth in SS13, the final test of the loop - Arena Panzerplatte, was again a problematic one and a front shocker absorber problem dropped him back to P6.
Subaru duo, Petter Solberg and Xavier Pons round out the provisional points' scorers in seventh and eighth respectively, and despite steering problems on and off all day, 'Hollywood' was reasonably happy, although he didn't cut the gap to Toni and Jan probably quite as much as he would have liked this afternoon. Indeed he still remains around 15 seconds adrift.
Stobart Ford duo Jari-Matti Latvala and Matthew Wilson are ninth and eleventh respectively, sandwiching the Subaru of Chris Atkinson.
The Aussie set some top times during the second leg and was right up with the front runners - even winning SS12 and SS14. His error on day 1 though, when he beached his Impreza WRC in SS2 and lost over 7 minutes has made it all rather academic. If it wasn't for that he would have been right up with the likes of Gronholm, Duval and Hirvonen.
In the Junior Rally Championship category, Martin Prokop continues to lead in his Citroen C2 S1600 and he is still comfortably ahead of Urmo Aava - the gap some 50 seconds. Conrad Rautenbach completes the JRC podium, potentially giving Citroen a 1-3 finish.
In terms of retirees, Manfred Stohl was the biggest casualty going out in SS9 with engine problems. He will not be able to re-start on Sunday and therefore joins Dani Sordo on the sidelines, the only other 'works' retirement. Sordo went out on day 1 in SS5, also co-incidentally with engine issues.
Henning Solberg re-started this morning under the SupeRally and was up to 12th overall until he hit a rock in SS13 and damaged the suspension on his Stobart Ford. He will re-join the fold again on Sunday.
Tomorrow's leg is the shortest of the event and returns the crews to the Mosel vineyards. After leaving Trier at 08.00, drivers tackle two identical loops of two stages among the vines, split by a spectacular pursuit-style super special stage based around the city's historic Porta Nigra. They return to the finish in Trier at 15.00 [all times local].