World Champion still leads Rally of Spain
- 23rd October 2011, 7:22am
But while Loeb maintained his advantage out front, Jari-Matti Latvala shone with a trio of stage wins in his Ford Fiesta RS WRC.
Finn Latvala reached service in Salou this evening 27.6s behind Loeb after impressing throughout the day’s all-asphalt stages alongside co-driver Miikka Anttila, who became a father during the night.
“It’s been the best day of my career ever on Tarmac to be fighting in Catalunya with Loeb,” said Latvala. “I’ve not been able to catch him so much but I am still pleased for my day. I will pressurise him tomorrow.”
Loeb, whose lead at the end of Friday stood at 30.6s, began day two with a brace of stage wins. But while he wasn’t able to match Latvala’s pace in the afternoon, he is confident that he can extend his winning run in Spain to seven events.
“I have a good feeling and my car is going well,” said Frenchman Loeb. “I have a good rhythm but I am having to push because Jari-Matti is surprisingly fast on Tarmac. My lead should be enough tomorrow if I make no mistake.”
Mikko Hirvonen endured a lacklustre day in the second Fiesta and was coming under increasing pressure from fourth-placed Dani Sordo until he went quicker than the Spanish MINI driver on Saturday’s final test. The Ford driver will start day three with a margin of 37.4s over Sordo, who went fastest of all on stage 11.
Sebastien Ogier, in the second factory Citroen, is fifth overnight after losing more ground when he suffered a puncture for the second consecutive day. “It’s been a very bad weekend for us with a lot of bad luck,” said Ogier. “That’s rally so now we just try to finish.”
Kris Meeke is sixth overnight after an error-free display in his MINI. The Briton is chasing his first finish of 2011 and admitted that he is driving with more caution as a result.
Mads Ostberg is seventh after repairs at midday service solved the brake problem that hampered his M-Sport Stobart Fiesta in the morning. Team-mate Henning Solberg battled a fever to complete day two in eighth position.
Evgeny Novikov, on his debut in a Citroen DS3 WRC, suffered a scare at the end of stage 10 when flailing rubber from a rear-left puncture caused a small fire, which his co-driver Denis Giraudet had to extinguish at the stage finish. He is ninth and almost 90s clear of Matthew Wilson, whose Fiesta was slowed by understeer in the morning.
Dennis Kuipers said set-up changes at midday service had enabled him to up his pace behind the wheel of his FERM Power Tools World Rally Team Fiesta. The Dutchman is 11th, with Super 2000 World Rally Championship class leader Nasser Al-Attiyah 12th, just 0.4s in front of SWRC title favourite Juho Hanninen.
Armindo Araujo says he needs more testing if he is to climb the leaderboard in his Motorsport Italia MINI. The Portuguese, a back-to-back Production Car world champion, is 15th, 7.5s clear of Team Abu Dhabi’s Khalid Al Qassimi.
Yeray Lemes is the leading Volkswagen Motorsport driver in 17th with Munchi’s Ford Fiesta driver Federico Villagra climbing to 19th. A puncture on stage 10 dropped Peter van Merksteijn Jr out of the top 20. The Dutch Citroen driver lost more time trying to find a safe place to change the damaged tyre.
Ken Block (Monster World Rally Team Fiesta) and Daniel Oliveira (Brazil World Rally Team MINI) both restarted on day two following their exits on Friday. Oliveira is 29th with Block 31st.
Sunday’s itinerary features six stages over a competitive distance of 102.62 kilometres. The first stage, Santa Marina, gets underway at 07:02hrs local time.
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