17 November 2007
Ireland - leg 2: Loeb in command.
Citroen team leader, Sebastien Loeb has finished day 2 of the inaugural Rally Ireland in a seemingly invincible position.
Loeb began the second leg 11.2 seconds up on his team-mate, Daniel Sordo, and while conditions were pretty slippery following rain during the opening loop, it didn't seem to stop him.
Indeed the triple world champion was 6 seconds up on his nearest rival in Sloughan Glen 1 and then topped the times again in SS12 and SS13, and with Sordo having lost around 30 seconds in Ballinamallard 1, the Frenchman headed back to the mid-day service area having increased his cushion to 50.4 seconds.
Seb opted to pace himself a bit more this afternoon, on the repeat runs, and was 'only' third fastest in SS14, 2.5 seconds off Chris Atkinson. He won the next test though – to take his fourth stage win of the day and his ninth of the event, before settling for the fifth best time in SS16, the last stage of the day, 6.3 seconds behind Jari-Matti Latvala.
Loeb will now take a 59.3 second advantage into the final leg and while it is not over, as conditions are by no means easy, he is looking good to take advantage of Marcus Gronholm's off on day 1 and seize the lead in the race for the 2007 drivers' title.
Sordo for his part had a pretty good day, although he did have a bit of a moment on SS12, when he went off the road and got stuck on a concrete wall.
The Spaniard was helped back on again by some spectators and he continued on his way, despite slightly damaging the bodywork on his C4 WRC around the left-front wheel.
Stobart Ford's Jari-Matti Latvala meanwhile also had a bit of a scare when he went off the road in SS14 and into a field. That incident cost him around 20 seconds and as a result Mikko Hirvonen closed back up. Jari though still finished the day 28.8 seconds ahead.
Hirvonen opted for a cautious approach on day 2, conscious that he needs to get to the finish and score at least 3 points in order to sow up the manufacturers' crown for the BP Ford WRT. He conceded though that this didnt make things easy and that he was struggling to find a good rhythm as he was going too steady.
Petter Solberg consequently slashed the gap to Mikko from 26 seconds overnight to just 12.6 heading into service E. In the afternoon though 'Hollywood' was unable to make any more inroads and actually slipped back a bit, now 15.6 seconds adrift in his Impreza.
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