16 May 08
Defending World Rally Champion Sebastien Loeb became the new leader of the Rally d’Italia Sardinia on the second stage after Jari-Matti Latvala slid wide and collected a puncture.
Latvala, who was leading the rally by seven seconds after the opening test, finished the 33km Crastazza section with a missing front bumper and almost no rubber on the left-hand rear wheel of his Ford Focus RS WRC.
“We went wide on a downhill right-hand corner and hit a bank,” said Latvala. “It was my mistake.”
Sebastien Loeb was the fastest through the stage, completing it eighteen seconds faster than his Citroen team-mate Dani Sordo who was his closest rival. Loeb’s stage winning performance moves him into the overall rally lead by a margin of 17sec over Sordo who is in second. “It’s okay, it’s cleaning a bit, but for the moment it’s okay,” said Loeb. “The hard tyres suited that stage better than the first one, I had more grip.”
Mikko Hirvonen is third overall, but said he was frustrated to have completed the stage more than 20 seconds off Loeb’s pace. “I don’t know why but I can’t go any faster,” said Hirvonen. “We just can’t go quicker. I tried to push but there’s no grip whatsoever. It looks bad.”
Norway’s Andreas Mikkelsen rolled his Ford Focus RS WRC and looks to have retired - at least for the day.
Local hero Gigi Galli picked up a left-hand rear puncture, but remained philosophical - despite dropping 1min 12 sec to the leaders. “It’s just a puncture - it can happen," he said. “We hit a bank and it gave us a slow puncture. But the fact that we drove another 20km as it went down shows they’re working pretty well.”