03 Aug 08
Victory on Rally Finland looks more assured for Sebastien Loeb after he cleared Sunday’s longest stage without incident and with his 18.2 sec overnight lead intact.
Loeb’s closest rival Mikko Hirvonen was unable to take any time out of the Frenchman through the 23km Lankamaa stage and the pair both stopped the clock at 11m 11.0sec. It was the third time the pair had tied a stage this weekend.
“I tried to push because the road was very dry and I knew Mikko would be trying hard,” said Loeb. “So I started with good motivation and drove quickly but when I saw the split times I was able to take not so many risks. But it’s not over yet.”
Mikko Hirvonen was disappointed not to have dented Loeb’s lead, but said he couldn’t have done anything more. “I tried. We set the same time and you can see from the difference to everyone else’s how hard we’re both pushing,” said Hirvonen. “All I can do now is carry on going flat out and let’s see what happens. All I can do is keep the pressure on.”
Chris Atkinson’s third place looked a lot more secure after he extended his lead over Dani Sordo from 1sec to 13.4sec. But at the finish control the Australian said it was still too early to be thinking about podium celebrations. “It was good and we definitely tried there - especially at the start,” he said. “But the next stage is brand new and very tricky so we’ll have to see - it won’t be easy.”
Sordo, however, said that as far as he was concerned, the fight for third was over. “I made no mistakes but I wasn’t driving at maximum attack,” he said. “After I saw my split time I decided it was better to get the car back in fourth position and take five points for Citroen than take risks and maybe end up with nothing.”
Fifth placed Henning Solberg took seven seconds out of Sordo’s advantage, but with 20 seconds still to make up on the 17km which remain it doesn’t look like he’ll catch the Spaniard. “Anything can happen,” said Solberg “But I pushed perhaps a little too at the start and maybe lost the brake towards the end. I’ll keep doing my best”
There were no position changes in the top 10.