Loeb crashes out of Rally Poland
- 26th June 2009, 8:40pm
Sebastien Loeb's recent run of bad luck continued on today's longest stage in Poland when the Frenchman crashed his Citroen shortly after the start of SS4 - the last stage of the morning loop.
Loeb began the stage in second place overall and reported that the overheating problem that had affected his car on SS2 had gone away. But 1.2 kilometres from the start of the 33km Paprotki stage Loeb crashed his C4 off the road, damaging its right-hand front suspension. He and his co-driver Daniel Elena are uninjured.
It was the Frenchman's second crash from two events. There is no news yet on whether or not the pair will return on Saturday under Super Rally rules.
Mikko Hirvonen, trailing Loeb by seven points in the drivers' championship, was the first driver to complete the stage and report on Loeb's accident. "I saw his car off the road; it looks like he's rolled it but didn't look too bad," said Mikko. "After that I took it very carefully. I didn't want to make the same mistake. It's strange, very strange."
Hirvonen now leads of the rally by 2.4sec from his team-mate Jari-Matti Latvala. "There were a lot of tree stumps in the area where Loeb went off, perhaps he hit one," said Latvala, who set the fastest time through the stage.
Loeb's team-mate Dani Sordo holds third place overall, 12.3 seconds behind Latvala. "I'm very disappointed for Sebastien - it's bad luck," he said. "The pressure is on now. I lost some time in a hairpin but other than that at the moment itâ€™s okay."
Petter Solberg completed the morning stages in fourth place, but said his car had no answer to the pace of his rivals. "I'm absolutely flat-out everywhere but itâ€™s too fast for me here - I canâ€™t get the speed," he said. "Itâ€™s the same as every rally when itâ€™s fast. That's where I lose time - I know that."
After promising to go 'maximum gas' through the stage, fifth placed Citroen Junior Team driver Evgeny Novikov set some blistering split times, then crashed out near the finish.
The 18-year-old Russian brought his C4 WRC to the finish control with heavy damage to its right-hand front corner. "We had a big off over a crest at warp factor five billion," said Novikov's co-driver Dale Moscatt. Looking at the state of the car Moscatt said: "I don't think there's much we can do about it."
Leading positions after SS4:
Pos Driver Car Time/Gap
1. Mikko Hirvonen Ford 32m19.5s
2. Jari-Matti Latvala Ford + 2.4s
3. Dani Sordo Citroen + 14.7s
4. Andreas Mikkelsen Skoda + 34.1s
5. Petter Solberg Citroen + 40.0s
6. Sebastien Ogier Citroen + 51.6s
7. Henning Solberg Ford + 53.9s
8. Matthew Wilson Ford + 58.6s
9. Evgeny Novikov Citroen + 59.0s
10. Conrad Rautenbach Citroen +1m15.1s
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