WRC World champion Loeb takes comfortable lead in Mexico

CORONA RALLY MEXICO, February 29th-March 2nd 2008

2008 FIA World Rally Championship, round 3

For immediate release
Saturday, March 1st, 2008




Subaru’s Atkinson stays in contact with second place

Turbo pipe woes push Latvala down to third position

Frenchman Ogier maintains J-WRC advantage


LEON (Mexico): Reigning FIA World Rally Champions Sébastien Loeb and Daniel Elena gained a convincing 61.4s overall lead after 16 timed gravel special stages of the 2008 Corona Rally Mexico on Saturday.


The French Citroën C4 WRC crew had begun the second day 9.6 seconds in front of Finland’s Jari-Matti Latvala and Miikka Anttila in the BP Ford Abu Dhabi World Rally Team Ford Focus RS, but Latvala was always going to struggle by being the first driver on the road on slippery gravel stages.


Even Loeb was impressed by the manner in which his rival stayed in touch over the day’s punishing loose surface stages, but a leaking turbo pipe eventually pushed the Finn down into third place in the 13th stage and Australia’s Chris Atkinson inherited second overall for the Subaru World Rally Team, despite losing the Impreza’s launch control late on.


“I am not going to take any risks now,“ said Loeb. “Earlier on I had a small lead, but then Latvala had his problems. Who knows what would have happened otherwise?”


“After 500 metres of the 13th stage we had no power for the rest of the stage,” said Latvala, who now trails Loeb by 2m 06.4s. “I am afraid we have lost the game. It was more difficult than I thought to set competitive times when you are running first on the road.”


Norwegian Henning Solberg and Cato Menkerud and Finns Mikko Hirvonen and Jarmo Lehtinen became embroiled in a tussle for fourth position and the Norwegians – running in the Munchi’s Rally Team - finished the day 15.9 seconds ahead. Britain’s Matthew Wilson and co-driver Scott Martin completed the top six in their Stobart VK M-Sport Ford Focus RS.


Running first on the road was a big disadvantage for overnight leader Latvala and Loeb duly set the fastest time in the ninth Ibarilla stage to reduce the Finn’s lead to just 0.1 seconds. “I didn’t realise how different it would be to yesterday,” admitted the Finn, in reference to driving first on the road. Atkinson also clawed three seconds back, as the leading trio held station at the top of the leader board.


Predictably, Loeb took advantage of his starting position to move into the lead for the first time in SS10. He beat Latvala by 4.7 seconds to take a 4.6 second lead, as team mate Dani Sordo set the second fastest time after restarting under SupeRally this morning.


Petter Solberg lost fourth when he was delayed for four minutes with a broken driveshaft and slipped to seventh overall. He attempted to make roadside repairs before the 11th stage, but was unable to continue for the day. “Driveshaft again,” groaned Solberg. “This is ridiculous. There is always something going wrong. I am fed up. For the first 8km we were doing the same time as Loeb and then the driveshaft broke!”


Sordo was fastest in SS11, as Loeb extended his outright lead to 5.8 seconds. Federico Villagra was forced to complete the loop with no power steering and slipped to ninth behind the surging Mexican driver Ricardo Trivino, who was benefiting from a better stage driving position on day two to hold eighth overall. Matthew Wilson stalled at a hairpin and wiped out the front of his car after a reported collision with a dog, but held a solid sixth behind Norway’s Henning Solberg.


Loeb extended his lead over Latvala to 12.9 seconds in the second Ibarilla stage and Atkinson maintained the final podium place with the third fastest time. Hirvonen was forced to change one right puncture in the special and then completed the section on a second flat tyre after he collided with a large stone. The World Championship leader slipped 8.9 seconds behind Henning Solberg and into fourth place, but he had to complete the next two stages with no spare tyres.


Sordo set the pace in the 13th Duarte special, but Latvala suffered a reported fractured turbo pipe and complained that the engine was down on power after only 500 metres of what turned out to be unlucky SS13. He dropped 53 seconds to Loeb and slipped 7.6 seconds behind Atkinson for good measure. He began the final long gravel stage of the day 58.5 seconds ahead of the Australian. Henning Solberg was now embroiled in a thunderous tussle for fourth place and the Norwegian held sway by 11 seconds heading into SS14.


Atkinson had lost the Subaru’s launch control at the start of SS13 and he was forced to complete the remainder of the leg with the threat of losing around 10 seconds at each stage start. Latvala’s woes continued and he finished the 14th stage 46.1 seconds behind Loeb and slumped to 1m 52s behind the leader, but Atkinson’s fears were largely unfounded and he maintained a comfortable second position. Henning Solberg was the pick of the field in SS14 and set the fastest time.


French WRC debutant Sébastien Ogier extended his J-WRC lead to 49.3 seconds over Mölder in the ninth stage, although Sandell set the fastest time. The Swede was again quickest in the 11th special, but Ogier maintained his overall lead and Poland’s Michal Kosciuszko moved one second ahead of Mölder and into second place.


Ogier and Molder were inseparable in the 12th stage and Molder regained second position from Kosciuszko, but Sandell slipped a place and lost two minutes after collecting a puncture. It was a miserable stage for Martin Prokop, who lost around 20 minutes. Sandell was quickest in the 13th stage, but the leading trio held station over the remaining stages of the day, with Ogier taking a 1m 32.1s advantage into the last four tests.


We have driven without taking any risks and really enjoyed it,” said Ogier. “There were lots of spectators on the stages this afternoon and I like that. It was fun!”


Tomorrow (Sunday), the 2008 Corona Rally Mexico concludes with four special stages. Action gets underway with a 16.09km León stage and this is followed by runs through the Guanajuato and Comanjilla stages and a final sprint through the Nextel super special stage. The podium finish is scheduled for 13.00hrs.


2008 Corona Rally Mexico – positions at end of day 2:

1. Sébastien Loeb (F)/Daniel Elena (MC) Citroën C4 WRC                                                3h 08m 39.8s

2. Chris Atkinson (AUS)/Stéphane Prevot (B) Subaru Impreza WRC 2006                        3h 09m 41.2s

3. Jari-Matti Latvala (FIN)/Miikka Anttila (FIN) Ford Focus RS WRC 07                        3h 10m 46.2s

4. Henning Solberg (N)/Cato Menkerud (N) Ford Focus RS WRC 07                        3h 12m 31.4s

5. Mikko Hirvonen (FIN)/Jarmo Lehtinen (FIN) Ford Focus RS WRC 07                        3h 12m 47.3s

6. Matthew Wilson (GB)/Scott Martin (GB) Ford Focus RS WRC 07                                    3h 14m 50.4s

7. Federico Villagra (RA)/Jorge-Perez Companc (RA) Ford Focus RS WRC 07            3h 26m 54.1s

8. Ricardo Trivino (MEX)/Checo Salom (MEX) Peugeot 206 WRC                                    3h 28m 10.9s

9. Sébastien Ogier (F)/Julien Ingrassia (F) Citroën C2 S1600                                                3h 31m 10.6s

10. Jaan Mölder (EE)/Frederic Miclotte (B) Suzuki Swift S1600                                    3h 32m 42.7s



For further media information:
Corona Rally Mexico Media Centre, Poliforum Expo Centre,
León, Mexico, Tel: + 52 (477) 7114421 or + 52 (477) 7713070, E-mail: media@rallymexico.com or ndppublicity@compuserve.com








Date issued: 01/03/2008

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