WRC » 1 January 1901
Loeb remains in control
Citroen team leader Sebastien Loeb continues to lead Rally Norway, the second round in the 2009 World Rally Championship, following day two.
Loeb was handed the lead in the final stage on Friday, when Mikko Hirvonen slowed on purpose to give himself a better road position for the second leg.
However, despite running first on the road, Seb has held the advantage all day long and having started it 2.6 seconds in front, he will now go into Sunday's final six stages - and the longest leg of the event - with a 15 second cushion.
Despite managing to pull away though and set the pace in five of the eight tests, the Frenchman remains typically cautious.
He also added that Mikko's manoeuvrings were logical: “Yesterday I understood the tactics because he [Mikko] would have been in the same position as me, but maybe 1 or 2 seconds in front,” said the five-time world champion.
“But it is not a problem. It is normal that he played that and I tried my best to keep my position.
“I don't know much about the stages tomorrow now. Today though, they were really nice and I think they should hopefully be good on day three too.”
Hirvonen's gamble meanwhile has definitely not paid off - at least based on what happened today and the Finn was only able to beat Loeb in one of the tests, when he took 1.1 seconds out of him in SS15.
Mikko remains determined to fight on however, and try and take the maximum ten points.
"We were both driving at a crazy speed, especially this morning," Hirvonen noted. "The grip was consistent and it was fantastic to drive in those conditions. It's an amazing fight, and while I don't enjoy being second, I'm loving this contest. I've not had problems, he's just been faster than me.
“I need to be faster than him tomorrow. It's not impossible to turn the gap around and I will give it my best shot.
“It's so close and there are many risks still to be taken. I'll be so disappointed if I lose out tomorrow.”
Jari-Matti Latvala is next up and third in the sister BP Ford Abu Dhabi WRT entry. The Finn struggled again this morning to match Loeb and Hirvonen and it wasn't until the afternoon that he finally seemed to get his Focus set-up to his liking and find the groove. As a result he was fastest in SS15 and SS16, but he still remains over 40 seconds off the lead.
"It went well this afternoon," said Latvala. "Unfortunately I found the right car set-up a little too late. I'll try to keep the pressure on tomorrow but the time gap is too large for me to challenge the two guys in front. I would love to be battling with them but I have to be sensible and realistic.
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