16 July 2005
Loeb on course for Rally Argentina win.
Reigning world champion, Sebastien Loeb continued on his way to victory Saturday on the Rally Argentina and the Frenchman concluded the leg 26.6 seconds up on his nearest rival.
Loeb enjoyed a solid day, setting the pace in two of the final three tests this afternoon, and despite a spin in SS13 this morning is looking well placed ahead of the final day Sunday.
The Citroen driver though isn't taking anything for granted...
"It's been a tough leg, and it's not over yet," he warned. "We will have to carry on pushing hard Sunday when the conditions will be much rockier. We will also be competing at altitude. It promises to be an interesting day."
Marcus Gronholm meanwhile put in a charge to grab second and close in on Loeb, however despite taking some 20 seconds out of the Citroen driver, following four stages win, the Finn believes a win is now unlikely.
"I think it will be impossible for us to win the rally just by normal driving," he stated, "but we have to stay as close as possible and keep the pressure on."
Petter Solberg was unable to match Gronholm this morning and consequently dropped to third. He also lost more time this afternoon after damaging a rear brake caliper in SS15. Despite sealing the leak, the Norwegian then struggled for the remaining two stages, invariably only running with front brakes.
"This just wasn't my afternoon. On the first stage a rear caliper started to leak the brake fluid, probably when a big rock punctured it, and I had absolutely zero brakes for six kilometres," explained the Subaru ace. "I managed to make some fixes after the stage, but I only had two or three brakes for the next stages."
Toni Gardemeister maintained fourth ahead of Harri Rovanpera, despite sliding off the road three times in the final stage of the leg. The Ford drivers' 20-second cushion though built this morning was reduced to 11 seconds and as such it will be a close battle between the two Finn's Sunday.
Behind Rovanpera, the top nine positions remain unchanged, with Peugeot's Markko Martin a distant sixth, while Francois Duval is seventh for Citroen ahead of Manfred Stohl in his privately run Xsara.
Chris Atkinson is still ninth, although Roman Kresta moved up into the top ten in the second works Ford Focus.
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