WRC Master tactician Loeb leads after day two in Jordan
JORDAN RALLY, April 1st-3rd, 2010
2010 FIA World Rally Championship, round 3
2010 FIA Middle East Rally Championship, round 3
For immediate release
Friday, April 2nd, 2010
MASTER TACTICIAN LOEB SNATCHES
DAY TWO LEAD IN JORDAN RALLY
· Finland’s Latvala stays in striking distance; second for Ogier
· Spaniard Pons snatches day two SWRC lead from Sousa
· Flodin and Araújo duel at the Dead Sea in PWRC
· UAE’s Sheikh Khalid Al-Qassimi storms into MERC lead
DEAD SEA (Jordan): Defending FIA World Rally Champion Sébastien Loeb and co-driver Daniel Elena snatched the outright lead in the Jordan Rally after a further six special stages of the three-day, third round of the FIA World Rally Championship on Good Friday.
The Citroën C4 WRC driver began the day in third overall, 31.8s behind Finland’s Jari-Matti Latvala of the BP Ford Abu Dhabi World Rally Team. But the Finn was forced to run first on the road through the day’s three gravel stages near the Dead Sea and it was a distinct disadvantage on the first pass through the tests, which were repeated on Friday afternoon.
Loeb moved ahead on the 12th stage and reached the overnight halt with a 24.6s advantage. Fellow Frenchman Sébastien Ogier and Latvala were his closest rivals to set up the prospect of a fascinating cat and mouse showdown through eight remaining stages on Saturday.
“I am quite happy with my performance today but I knew that I needed at least a lead of 30 seconds to take into the last day,” said Loeb. “I tried to push really hard and I don’t know if I could have done any better than that.”
“I have been quite pleased with my performance today actually,” added Latvala, who will start the final day in third place on the road and has a superb chance to set up a second successive victory for Ford in Jordan. Norway’s Petter Solberg holds fourth overall and Spain’s Dani Sordo rounds off the top five.
Spaniard Xavier Pons snatched the lead in the SWRC category from Portugal’s Bernardo Sousa on the 10th special stage and stretched his advantage to 38.7s at the end of day two. The Portuguese survived a potentially disastrous two-wheel moment on the Jordan River stage.
Patrik Flodin was the pace setter in the FIA Production World Rally Championship (PWRC). The Swede successfully overcame his dislike of the intense heat, but was pushed all the way by Portugal’s Armindo Araújo. He will take a PWRC lead of 23.9s into the final day.
Twenty-three additional crews from the FIA Middle East Rally Championship (MERC) joined the action on Saturday to accompany five drivers competing in the WRC section and also registered for the MERC. The UAE’s Sheikh Khalid Al-Qassimi held a comfortable 1m 53.9s lead after five of the day’s six stages, once Qatar’s Nasser Saleh Al-Attiyah had lost over 10 minutes on the daunting Jordan River with throttle linkage woes. Finland’s new MERC registration, Janne Tuohino, was second overall and Saudi Arabia’s Yazeed Al-Rajhi was involved in a close duel for third with Qatar’s Misfer Al-Marri with 0.5s separating the pair before the Jordan River stage.
Latvala began the Suwayma stage with a 30.2s lead and dropped just 3.3s to Loeb. But it was a dramatic stage for the Ford team: Mikko Hirvonen damaged the suspension and reportedly wrenched a wheel off his Ford Focus and was forced to retire. The Finn’s demise promoted Sordo to fifth and Henning Solberg to sixth. Loeb climbed above Ogier into second overall and reduced Latvala’s lead to 29.5s.
Solberg managed his third fastest time of the event through Kafrain and edged into second position at the expense of Loeb. Latvala dropped time to both drivers and saw his overall lead reduced to 21.8s.
But the major move came through the punishing 41.45km of the Jordan River stage. Loeb closed to within 4.7s of Latvala with the fastest time, as Henning Solberg punctured, Kimi Raikkonen overshot a junction in the dust and Petter Solberg had problems with his pace notes and slipped to fourth place.
Loeb was again quickest through the 11th stage and tied to a tenth of second with Latvala for the overall lead, as the remainder of the top 10 held station. Solberg was happier with his C4’s set-up after the lunch break and the Norwegian set the fastest time in SS12.
Loeb duly beat Latvala by 5.4s to take the outright lead for the first time in his bid for an unprecedented 56th WRC win. He extended that lead to 24.6s after the 13th stage, but Ogier moved ahead of Latvala with the third fastest time and enabled the Finn to slot in behind the French duo heading into day three.
Sousa admitted that he hadn’t woken sufficiently to be too competitive in Suwayma, but the Portuguese maintained his lead in the SWRC category through SS8, although Al-Attiyah was back on the pace after restarting under SupeRally on Friday morning. Pons was also driving with a good rhythm and the Spaniard reached the finish of the Kefrain stage a mere 0.7s behind Sousa.
He managed to pass Sousa in the Jordan River special, where Al-Attiyah was delayed for more than 10 minutes with gear linkage issues. Pons reached the finish of SS11 with a 7.3s advantage over Sousa and extended that lead to 11.7s through Kafrain. He reached the end of the leg 38.7s ahead of the Portuguese.
Czech driver Martin Semerad was the fastest of the PWRC runners in SS8. He beat Flodin by just one second, although the Swede maintained an advantage of 8.4s. But the Kefrain stage saw the re-emergence of Araújo. The Portuguese was in stunning form and a scintillating time catapulted him into the lead by 23 seconds from Flodin and Semerad.
Semerad hit differential trouble in the long Jordan River special and Flodin regained the lead. Araújo reduced the gap to 19.3s through SS11, only for Flodin to edge a further one second ahead in Kafrain and maintain his lead through the last stage of the day.
Jordanian Mazan Tantash failed to start the second day and this reduced the WRC runners taking part in the MERC section to just four cars. Al-Attiyah set the target time in Suwayma, from Finland’s Janne Tuohino and Saudi Arabia’s Yazeed Al-Rajhi, before the registered regional runners took to the stage over an hour later. Jordan’s Amjad Farrah left service 29 minutes late because of electrical problems.
Sheikh Khaled Al-Qassimi edged 0.6s in front of Al-Attiyah through SS1 and held the lead a lead of over half a minute after three stages, once Al-Attiyah lost over 10 minutes in the Jordan River stage with throttle linkage problems. The Qatari was forced to use his hand to control the broken cable.
MERC debutant Tuohino held second position and Al-Rajhi was third heading into the afternoon loop of three stages. Qatar’s Misfer Al-Marri and Khalid Al-Suwaidi held fourth and fifth, but the UAE’s Rashid Al-Ketbi had already retired his Skoda Fabia S2000. Al-Marri slipped past Al-Rajhi in SS11, where a resurgent Al-Attiyah set the fastest time, but the Saudi snatched third overall in SS12 to set up a fascinating battle on Saturday for the podium places behind the flying Al-Qassimi.
The new event format means that teams will tackle eight timed special stages on Saturday, before reaching the ceremonial finish from 15.30hrs at the Dead Sea. There will be two loops of four special stages, starting with the 14.16km Yakrut stage at 08.20hrs. This will be followed by the steep climbs and descents of the narrow Bahath special, the Shuna stage and a run through the 10.83km test at the Baptism site. A return to service follows at the Dead Sea and the four stages are repeated in the afternoon.
Positions after SS13 – end of day two (WRC):
1. Sébastien Loeb (F)/Daniel Elena (F) Citroën C4 WRC 2h 41m 06.7s
2. Sébastien Ogier (F)/Julien Ingrassia (F) Citroën C4 WRC 2h 41m 31.3s
3. Jari-Matti Latvala (FIN)/Miikka Anttila (FIN) Ford Focus RS WRC 09 2h 41m 34.4s
4. Petter Solberg (N)/Phil Mills (GB) Citroën C4 WRC 2h 41m 49.9s
5. Dani Sordo (E)/Marc Marti (E) Citroën C4 WRC 2h 41m 55.5s
6. Matthew Wilson (GB)/Scott Martin (GB) Ford Focus RS WRC 08 2h 46m 12.4s
7. Federico Villagra (RA)/Jorge Perez Companc (RA) Ford Focus RS WRC 08 2h 47m 57.7s
8. Kimi Räikkönen (FIN)/Kaj Lindström (FIN) Citroën C4 WRC 2h 49m 15.7s
9. Henning Solberg (N)/Ilka Minor (A) Ford Focus RS WRC 08 2h 51m 10.7s
10. Xavier Pons (E)/Alex Haro (E) Ford Fiesta S2000 2h 51m 24.4s
11. Bernardo Sousa (P)/Nuno da Rodrigues (P) Ford Fiesta S2000 2h 52m 03.1s
Positions after SS5 of 6 (SS8-12) – (MERC @ 15.30hrs):
1. Khalid Al-Qassimi (UAE)/Michael Orr (GB) Ford Fiesta S2000 1h 06m 00.0s
2. Janne Touhino (FIN)/Markku Tuohino (FIN) Ford Fiesta S2000 1h 07m 53.9s
3. Yazeed Al-Rajhi (KSA)/Matthieu Baumel (F) Peugeot 207 S2000 1h 08m 13.6s
4. Misfer Al-Marri (QA)/Nicola Arena (I) Subaru Impreza 1h 08m 14.1s
5. Khalid Al-Suwaidi (QA)/Nick Beech (GB) Subaru Impreza 1h 10m 05.3s
15. Nasser Saleh Al-Attiyah (QA)/Giovanni Bernacchini (I) Skoda Fabia S2000 1h 17m 22.7s
For further media information:
2010 Jordan Rally Press Office, Main Media Centre, King Hussein Ben Talal Convention Centre, Dead Sea, Jordan, Mobile: + 962 79 6548882 or Mobile: + 962 79 5640597, E-mail: email@example.com or firstname.lastname@example.org