01 Mar 08
Jari-Matti Latvala’s lead of Rally Mexico was drastically reduced on the first test of day two after a blistering attack from stage winner Sebastien Loeb.
Latvala began day two 9.6sec ahead of the Frenchman, but with the handicap of running as first car through Saturday’s stages he could only set the sixth fastest time, and lost all but 0.5 seconds of his rally lead.
Loeb, who remains second overall, will follow Latvala through Saturday’s stages and should benefit as the Finn’s car sweeps some of the loose gravel from the road surface.
On Friday Latvala acknowledged that running first on the road might put him at a disadvantage, he was prepared to take the risk.
“Being second on the road is definitely an easier place to be,” said Latvala. “I understand more about what Mikko faced yesterday! It’s harder being first car through, especially in the braking points. It’s not so easy but I must find a way to do it and to improve. It doesn’t look too bad though. We still have chances so it’s not lost yet.”
Latvala will continue to act as road sweeper for the rest of the morning’s stages, but shouldn’t be at such a disadvantage in the afternoon because the repeated stages will already have been swept of loose material.
“It’s very close again and I’m feeling much better about that, said Loeb. “We changed our car settings a bit and now we’re closer to Latvala. I don’t know, maybe Latvala is cleaning the road, maybe it’s the settings on my car, the important thing is we were faster.”
Mikko Hirvonen set the third fastest time and closed the gap on Petter Solberg’s fourth place to 3.4sec. “It’s okay, not too bad, said Hirvonen. “There is definitely a cleaner line than yesterday, but everybody is pushing hard so it’s going to be hard to catch up.”