01 Nov 08
The second day of competition on Rally Japan began with a short sprint around the spectator-focussed Imeru stage, run as SS11.
Apart from a bit of bodywork damage inflicted by the roadside barriers, all of the top ten cars emerged from the tight and twisty 2.4km circuit in one piece. The stage was won by Citroen Total driver Dani Sordo, who restarted the event today as a SuperRally entrant following his turbo-related retirement on Friday.
At 31.12km in length, the Nikara stage which followed was the biggest challenge of the rally so far and the setting for a remarkable performance from Subaru World Rally Team driver Petter Solberg. The Norwegian set the fastest time in his Impreza WRC2008 and collected his first stage win since Rally Finland.
“I knew it went well, but not quite that well!” said a delighted Petter at the finish control. “The team made some changes in service last night which have made it easy to drive. It was good fun and I’m very happy.” The result moved Solberg ahead of his team-mate Chris Atkinson into fourth overall.
Factory Suzuki driver P-G Andersson was another man keeping the home crowd happy. The Swede moved ahead of Matthew Wilson into sixth. “Yeah, it’s been a good stage,” said Andersson. “We struggled a bit in the middle section with understeer in the hairpins and we could do with some more power, but it’s okay.” Wilson, however, was frustrated with his lack of performance: “I just didn’t have a good feeling; the rhythm wasn’t there,” he said.
The rally leading trio of Mikko Hirvonen, Jari-Matti Latvala and Sebastien Loeb maintained their positions. Hirvonen extended his lead over Latvala by two seconds over the two stages but said he expected a good fight with his team-mate later in the day. However Latvala said his priority was to protect the Ford formation: “The main thing is to try and keep Sebastien behind me - that’s what I’m concentrating on,” he said.
Sebastien Loeb completed the stage secure in third place and still on course to collect the six points needed to secure the 2008 world championship this weekend. “I had a medium-good drive,” he said “There were quite a lot of ruts on the road - even after just the two cars ahead of me - so the second pass is bound to be difficult. It’s not easy to drive in these conditions and on these new stages, but I’m still driving for the podium and for the moment it’s going okay.”