Atko still a podium chance
- 11th March 2007, 11:50am
Sébastien Loeb (Citroën/BFGoodrich) and Marcus Grönholm (Ford/BFGoodrich) were the stars of the second leg of the 2007 Rally Mexico and look set to secure the gold and silver medals at Sunday afternoon's finish ceremony. Meanwhile, Mikko Hirvonen, Dani Sordo and Chris Atkinson have been locked in a fierce battle to see which of them joins the two World Champions on tomorrow's podium.
The rally was again marred by spectators throwing stones at the passing cars. While the Citroën C4 WRC driver Sébastien Loeb and Subaru's Christ Atkinson were the main victims of this stupid act yesterday, it was the Group N runners who took the brunt of the violence this time round, with several cars sporting shattered screens.
In sporting terms, Loeb was definitely the man to beat today. The Frenchman was fastest over four of Leg 2's six 'true' stages, including both attempts at the longest test of the weekend, Ibarrilla (30km), a magnificent, varied and technically challenging run watched by thousands of fans. The Citroën driver has succeeded in extending his cushion at the top of the leaderboard to almost a minute and, but for drama on the final day, appears to be well on target to collect his second Mexican victory at Leon's soulless Polyforum Exhibition Centre tomorrow afternoon.
His closest chaser this evening is none other than Marcus Grönholm (Ford/BFGoodrich) who has recovered from his catastrophic start due to a turbo problem and his status as first driver on the road on Friday to charge back up through the field. The Finn enjoyed better fortunes today, bouncing back from 5th to 2nd place in the course of the morning's loop of three stages. He then profited from the afternoon's stone-littered tests to pull clear of the three drivers who have been scrapping in his wake to join him and Loeb on the podium.
With only the two attempts at the short Leon super-special remaining before the end of the second day, Mikko Hirvonen (Ford/BFGoodrich), Dani Sordo (Citroën/BFGoodrich) and Chris Atkinson (Subaru/BFGoodrich) were grouped within a mere 10s and all three of them had a tale to tell about how they had lost the odd second here and there. Mikko had a spin on SS13, Dani was forced to stop on SS9 because of hanging dust and Chris dropped a little time following a heavy landing after a jump on SS11. Meanwhile, Manfred Stohl (Citroën/BFGoodrich) – who completed Friday's action in 6th place, 51s behind the leader – continues to figure in 6th spot but is now more than a minute adrift of the driver in 5th spot.
Jari Matti Latvala (7th, Ford/BFGoodrich) produced his best stage performance of the weekend so far second time through the long stage (5th best time) and currently heads the two Stobart drivers, youngster Matthew Wilson (8th, Ford/BFGoodrich) and Henning Solberg (10th, Ford/BFGoodrich). As expected, the rally's early pacesetter Petter Solberg (Subaru/BFGoodrich) chose not to re-start this morning after dropping out on Friday afternoon with an engine problem.
Rally of Mexico - positions after Leg 2
Pos Driver Make Time
1. Loeb Citroen 3h 08:27.0
2. Gronholm Ford + 1:00.8
3. Sordo Citroen + 1:35.3
4. Hirvonen Ford + 1:38.1
5. Atkinson Subaru + 1:47.8
6. Stohl Citroen + 2:41.8
7. Latvala Ford + 3:50.4
8. Wilson Ford + 10:21.5
9. H Solberg Ford + 13:10.0
10. Higgins Mitsubishi + 16:42.0
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