21 August 2004
Loeb continues march to German hat-trick.
Championship leader Sebastien Loeb took no risks on the Rallye Deutschland today [Saturday], however despite his caution, and despite setting two fastest times, he has ended the day with a 54.7 second advantage, double that than at the end of leg 1 on Friday.
Loeb, who survived, while his nearest championship rival, Petter Solberg crashed out, reckoned that conditions were atrocious, making driving a lottery.
"The first time through Bosenberg [SS9] was one of the worst moments I have ever had," he reflected at the end of the day. "Even with rain tyres, anything could have happened.
"Throughout the rest of the day, I tried to stay within the narrow safety margin, particularly when, for special stages 13 to 15, we chose dry tyres, with soft rubber, which had been deeply cut. The choice was logical, but the weather sometimes made it look wrong."
Francois Duval meanwhile has grabbed second, nipping in front of Carlos Sainz on the final test, after the Spaniard spun. He now lies 5.7 seconds behind. The Belgian knows though that he will have a real battle on his hands tomorrow.
Peugeot duo Cedric Robert and Freddy Loix had a good day. Robert posted his first fastest time on a world rally to climb from ninth to fifth while Loix won two stages to move up from 13th to sixth, finally getting the better of Skoda's Toni Gardemeister after a daylong battle.
Stephane Sarrazin is eighth, the top privateer, while Mikko Hirvonen and Alex Bengue round off the top ten.
In the Production Car WRC category Xavier Pons still leads for Mitsubishi, he is 31.9secs up on Niall McShea, while Toshi Arai, Alister McRae and Jani Passonen complete the 'class' top five.
In total 44 competitors completed today's nine stages, 13 more dropping out. All today's major retirements were the result of accidents. Roman Kresta and Gilles Panizzi crashed on the opening stage and Petter Solberg rolled heavily on the fourth. Panizzi and Solberg's co-driver, Phil Mills, were both taken to hospital for checks but were quickly released with just bruising.
The final leg tomorrow is the shortest of the three and is based entirely on closed public roads in the Saarland region.
Drivers leave Bostalsee at 06.32 and tackle two identical loops of three stages before a repeat of the super special stage through the streets of St Wendel to end the action. The seven stages cover 98.38km and drivers then head to Trier for the formal finish ceremony at 15.30.
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