Sebastien Loeb leads after an action packed day 2 of Rally Acropolis, and will be first on the road for day 3.
After a much needed service for the crews, it was back to the action. Solberg still pushing but due to the varying lines it still took some cleaning, Loeb was again quicker than Petter but lost time to the others. Loebs main aim for the afternoon was to keep within a reasonable distance of Ogier, and not let him extend too much of a lead. But that would be a tough job, as Ogier was on a total flyer. Not only was he faster than the front runners and grabbed the 2nd fastest stage time and took the lead from Solberg. “I hope to continue like this.”
Unfortunately he couldn’t match his team mate on the following stage and dropped 2 seconds to Loeb. But reclaimed his stage winning pace on SS12 and was 3.1 seconds faster. “We tried very hard on this one”. That was despite Loeb really pushing hard to catch him. “I’m pushing to the maximum, don’t want to let Ogier go to far” said Loeb. Solberg was still struggling and lost a lot of time throughout today. “I just…. That one was very loose. I’m pushing very, very hard, I can’t do any more – The last two stages have just killed me, I don’t want to lose too much for tomorrow.”
The final stage of the day Nea Politia (SS13), was something special, as it was a 17.71Km night stage. something that’s very rare in the World Rally Championship these days. The first section of it is very sandy, almost like the ‘fesh fesh’ you would get on the Dakar rally, and caused alot of problems in terms of hanging dust in the night, and a small tarmac section towards the end. With the cars equipped with their lamp pods, they launched into the darkness. Solberg didn’t set the best time, and explained to the stage end reporters on World Rally Radio, that they had a problem and Chris Patterson got lost in the pacenotes. By the time Loeb came through, the damage was done and Solberg endded the day in 3rd place, but some consolation as it would be a good road position for day 3.
The battle of the Seb’s continued. Loeb came through the night stage, 13.4 seconds quicker than Solberg, despite losing time at the beginning in the dust he gained the lead of rally Acropolis. Ogier came to the end of day 2 and stage end rather confused. But he did what he needed to do and finished the day in 2nd place overall, 2.2 seconds from his team mate Loeb. “I don’t know where I am!? Very difficult to drive this stage” But the Frenchman in a great road position for victory tomorrow.
As Loeb takes the lead, the stage end became hectic. Full of spectators with nothing to hold them back but a jobs worth Marshal blowing the ‘living night lights’ out of his whistle. The excited fans being well behaved while trying to grab a photo of drivers and cars.
Hirvonen lost time to Loeb but is also in a good position to fight for victory if he can get on the pace. “It was ok, dusty in some places and couldn’t see anything, not a level playing field (on this stage). Good road position tomorrow, game is on!” But The night stage glory went to Hirvonen’s team mate, Latvala who once again proved what could have been if it weren’t for the problems this morning. The fin very much enjoyed the stage. “I kept it going, I wanted to go fast. Enjoyed driving in the dark, I could carry on all night now.”
The action further down came in the shape of the M-sport Stobart Ford World Rally team. with Henning Solberg leading the ‘best of the rest’ holding 5th place. Although he had his fair share of problems. On SS8, Henning lost his brakes. The problem wasn’t so bad on the following stage and did what he could, felling happier with his time. After the problem was fixed in service, he went into the afternoon loop of stages and despite making a mistake on SS10 he was comfortable with his position. The Norwegian struggled on the night stage saying, “A lot of dust, oui oui….. very difficult to see.” although the Norwegian seemed more interested in what was going on at the front, and spent more time ‘interviewing’ the stage end reporters than they were interviewing him to get the latest on the battle at the front.
His team mate Mathew Wilson didn’t have to bad of a day and ended it in 6th, although hampered by a misfiring car. The other Stobart driver Mads Ostberg had been setting some great times, and regularly in the top 5 fastest stage times and holds 14th after crashing off yesterday
Kimi Raikkonen hasn’t had a bad day, sitting comfortably in 7th. Racing in the dark was a new experience for the ex-F1 Champ, he didn’t enjoy it much due to the dust on the night stage, but felt that his performance was much stronger today than on day 1 and enjoying driving the stages.
Click here to see official overall results for day 2.