19 May 2007
Sardinia - leg 2: Loeb consolidates lead.
Sebastien Loeb continues to lead the Rally d'Italia Sardgena, the seventh round in the 2007 FIA World Rally Championship, following the conclusion of the second leg on Saturday.
Loeb grabbed the lead in the final stage on Friday, after Marcus Gronholm had lost time with a damaged shock absorber, and the Frenchman proceeded to build a good cushion this morning on the first loop, doubling his overnight advantage from 22.4 seconds to 41.5 seconds, thanks to three stages win in succession.
Although Seb only won one of the three tests this afternoon, on the repeat runs through, he remains 36.5 seconds in front in his C4, with just the final day to go on Sunday.
Gronholm meanwhile was more or less in touch with the Citroen man this morning until the final test of the loop, when he had to ease up because of a slow puncture. He was unable to switch to the spare tyre as he had lost it in SS8 when the retaining strap fractured and the wheel was knocked out of the car about 4km after the start.
That combined with the shock absorber problem on day one, has put the Finn up against it and although he tried to comeback on the second loop on Saturday he was only able to reduce the gap by 5 seconds.
Marcus' BP Ford team-mate, Mikko Hirvonen is next up in third, 54 seconds further back in the sister Focus RS WRC. The Finn set top three times in four of the days six stages, easing off somewhat in the final two tests of the day, in part due to tyre problems.
Further-down the order, Daniel Sordo was the only person on the move in the top eight. The Spaniard began the day more than 40 seconds behind Henning Solberg but kept chipping away in his Citroen C2 and his persistence finally paid off in SS12, when Henning posted a bad time, something that combined with top five times throughout the day for Dani, gives the 2005 Junior champion a 10 second 'lead'.
After Henning, Subaru's Petter Solberg is sixth. The Norwegian was unable to match the pace of Seb and Gronholm and although he improved somewhat in the afternoon, he was still a lot slower than he would like to be.
Mitsubishi privateer, Toni Gardemeister and OMV Kronos' Manfred Stohl complete the provisional points' scorers in seventh and eighth, while Juho Hanninen is ninth, nearly 4 minutes off Stohl, on his second event with the Lancer WRC05.
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