06 Mar 10
Despite protestations that he wasn't pushing too hard through today's nine stages in Mexico, S-WRC leader Martin Prokop remains 4.8sec ahead of his chief rival Xevi Pons with only Sunday's three stages to go.
Prokop only claimed one stage win at the wheel of his Fiesta S2000 today, on the final Super Special, but benefited from a clutch problem which affected the similar car of his Spanish rival throughout the day.
After giving his car a battering during Friday's competition, Prokop adopted a gentler approach today because he has to use the same car on the S-WRC round in New Zealand. The car will be shipped directly from Mexico to Auckland, without stopping at his team's base in the Czech Republic, so he cannot afford to suffer any major damage.
Ending the day eighth in the overall standings, as the best non WRC entrant, Prokop said he would keep the same approach on Sunday. "I expect it will be difficult tomorrow but again we will try to do some good times without taking too many risks. We will continue to drive fast - but not at the maximum," he said.
Pons, meanwhile, continued to be affected by the clutch problem picked up on today's opening stage. "We've had issues with it all day," explained the Spaniard. "Sometimes it works, sometimes it doesn't. I'm glad to be able to continue but I lost a lost of time in the stages. I'm not very happy."
More than two minutes behind the lead pair, Qatari driver Nasser Al-Attiyah remains well cushioned in third on his first event in a Skoda Fabia S2000. "It’s been a very tough event, so I'm quite happy to have got to the end of days one and two," said Al-Attiyah. "I've learned a lot with this car and every stage there's been a bit of improvement with the set-up and the handling. If I finish this rally in third place it will be a good start to my championship."
Andorran driver Albert Llovera is fourth, 29min behind Al-Attiyah, and relieved to have got to the end of another challenging day.
After competing three stages on Friday without power steering, the paraplegic, who drives his Fiat Abarth Grand Punto using hand controls, had a spin on SS11 and a crash on SS12.
The crash damaged the front end of his car and broke a driveshaft - leaving it in three-wheel drive and even tougher to steer. "These are probably the toughest stages I have ever driven in my life," said Llovera. "My arms are so tired and my left thumb is extremely sore from keeping it on the hand throttle!"
Fiesta driver Michal Kosciuszko retuned as a SuperRally entrant today, and won four stages in the morning but retired again on SS14 with a drivetrain failure. Another SuperRally entrant, Eyvind Brynildsen, set the fastest time on SS15 in his Skoda Fabia S2000.