01 Mar 08
With just four more stages remaining on Sunday’s final day of Rally Mexico, defending world champion Sebastien Loeb leads the event by more than one minute.
Loeb’s lead became a good deal more secure on SS13 today after a turbo problem cost his closest rival, Jari-Matti Latvala, around 55 seconds. Latvala’s Ford Focus had little turbo-boost for most of the stage because of a broken boost-pipe. As a result he dropped back behind Chris Atkinson into third place overall.
Latvala and his co-driver Miikka Anttila tried to fix the pipe using aluminium tape before the start of SS14, but the problem persisted and over the 23km test they dropped another 45 seconds to Atkinson.
”Now it’s easier,” said Loeb. “We were pushing hard until we had a good lead on Jari-Matti, but now we have a good lead over Atkinson, and it’s a bit more comfortable. From now on we just have to finish - and finish first. There’s still a long way to go, but if it ends like this it will be the perfect rally.”
Atkinson is now on course for the best result of his WRC career. The 28-year-old Australian joined Subaru in 2005 and up to now his best results have been the third places he recorded on Rally Japan in 2005 and this year’s Rallye Monte Carlo.
It’s a bit of a surprise but that’s the way rallying is, said Atkinson. “We’ve had our problems and now Jari unfortunately has had some. We’re in second now which is good although not without its challenges, but the package is working okay and we’re able to do decent stage times, consistently, so that’s quite good. The gap ahead and behind us is a minute plus now, so we’ll just try and get through tomorrow’s stages with no mistakes.”
A disappointed Jari-Matti said his sights were now set on a top three finish. “We tried to repair the boost pipe but unfortunately it didn’t help, okay we had some boost, but not much. Our fight for the lead might be over but if we can finish on the podium here that would be perfect.”
Henning Solberg is fourth for the Munchi’s Ford team and after reporting brake problems throughout the day the Norwegian said he was relieved to get back to service. Solberg will start day three just 15 seconds ahead of fellow Ford Focus driver Mikko Hirvonen, which raised the question of how hard he would fight to defend the position. “I don’t know,” said Solberg. “It’s probably more important for Mikko to get the points, but I think Munchi’s will give me a lot of ice cream if I get third for them! Personally speaking, it’s good either way. We’ll see tomorrow.”
Hirvonen rounded off the top five but was frustrated at having lost so much time with two punctures on SS12. “We’re lucky to have got the car back here at all,” he said. After a disappointing rally so far, Hirvonen pledged that he would pull out all the stops on Sunday’s remaining tests. “Tomorrow I’m definitely going to try and catch Henning. It’s going to be flat out.”
Matthew Wilson holds sixth place for the Stobart Ford team after a lucky escape on SS13 when a spectator threw a rock at his car. The rock punched into the middle of his car’s windscreen, which absorbed the impact but crazed the glass around the strike, reducing visibility for the remaining tests.
Federico Villagra is seventh in the second Munchi’s Ford and the final WRC entry in the top 10. Villagra had a difficult day because of power-steering problems.