02 Mar 08
After SS19, and with just the Superspecial stage remaining, Citroen’s Sebastien Loeb continues to hold a commanding lead of Rally Mexico.
Loeb had a trouble free run through the day’s two ‘proper’ stages and said the cancellation of SS19 had helped him protect his lead. “I feel very good now there’s just the Superspecial to go,” he said. “The distance today was always going to be short, but the cancellation meant I could take it a little easier.”
Chris Atkinson of the Subaru team kept out of trouble to hold second place and remain on course for the best finish of his WRC career. But the Australian said it hadn’t been easy, as he had been ill overnight and drove SS18 with a splitting headache. “I had three hours sleep and I’m not feeling great,” he said. “But okay, we’re pretty well cushioned in third so we can afford to give away a second per kilometre. We’re nearly there now, but there are still 4km to go. We’ll see what we can do and keep our fingers crossed.”
Jari-Matti Latvala - who led the rally on the first day - completed the stage 18 seconds faster than Loeb and said he was disappointed not to still be fighting for the lead. “It would have been nice to have a battle with Seb today,” he said. “But I’ve got a good feeling in the car and I’m really enjoying driving it. I’m not pushing too hard, just driving normally to keep my concentration up and preparing a little for Argentina.”
A furious Henning Solberg crossed the line with a right-hand front puncture on his Munchi’s team Ford Focus. Solberg’s fourth place was the most vulnerable of all the positions in the top-ten and he started the stage only nine seconds ahead of a hard charging Mikko Hirvonen. “It’s almost unbelievable!” said Solberg. “We were going well and then 4km before the finish line the tyre punctured. We’ve lost a lot of time.”
Sure enough, Solberg’s misfortune and a stage winning time from Mikko Hirvonen was enough for the pair to swap places and Hirvonen moved up to fourth. “With just one stage to go Henning was certainly unlucky,” said Hirvonen. “But it looks like at least one time this rally I’ve had some good luck.”