14 May 2005
Loeb only has to finish now to win in Cyprus...
Citroen team leader, Sebastien Loeb looks all set to rack up his fourth victory of the season and his third on the trot, following leg two today [Saturday] in Cyprus.
With such a large advantage following the opening day, he was never under any pressure, however despite this he was fastest on all four stages that he drove competitively and now leads by 3 minutes 32.7 seconds.
The big question though is can he continue to avoid the carnage?
"I am pleased, of course. We didn't have any problems with the car and I didn't make any mistakes. Those two points were essential today and will be again tomorrow," said Loeb. "I tell myself that I am my own biggest rival. I must stay concentrated to avoid the sort of troubles that have decimated the field, especially since today's stages were in a better condition than yesterday's. Tomorrow's are rougher. When it's like that, when you haven't got a fight on your hands, you suffer at the same time as your car and it's difficult to derive any real pleasure."
Manfred Stohl meanwhile has hung onto second place, in his privately entered Xsara, a minute up on Henning Solberg, who is third.
"My Citroen is going very, very well. Kronos Racing are good listeners and very reactive when I ask for something," noted Stohl. "Their work is impeccable. Personally, I am taking it easy everywhere whenever the conditions dictate. There's only one day to go and although that's by no means a foregone conclusion, I find myself dreaming that I can finish on the podium. For a 'privateer', that really is something!"
Behind the leading trio Markko Martin maintains fourth and is driving the sole remaining Peugeot, following Marcus Gronholm's official retirement early this morning which was finally confirmed by Peugeot - even though he went out on SS1 on Friday.
"It's not been a bad day, and I've had no real problems," reflected the Estonian. "I've just concentrated on keeping the car on the road and avoiding all the dramas that seem to have affected everybody else. I am currently second of the manufacturer entries, and with no chance of taking the lead there is no point in pushing. This rally has been a real trial, and I'm just looking forward to getting to the finish tomorrow."
Ford's Toni Gardemeister lost precious time in the final stage of the leg with a puncture and holds a distant fifth, while Roman Kresta is next up in the sister 'works' Focus.
Harri Rovanpera was on course for sixth, but he had to stop in the final stage today, when he hit a rock damaging his front right suspension. The Finn elected to stop and incur a 5 minute penalty rather than continue and risk damaging his car further. He dropped to seventh as a result and plans to re-start tomorrow under the SupeRally regulations.
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