WRC Rally Deutschland: Sebastien Loeb extends lead as rivals stumble
|By Matt Beer||Saturday, August 25th 2012, 09:53 GMT|
Sebastien Loeb's Rally Deutschland lead grew to a minute and a half amid a wild morning for his rivals on Saturday.
The World Rally champion's day got off to an excellent start when he doubled his lead from 20 to 40 seconds immediately as rain hit the opening Stein and Wein stage.
The downpour caught out the whole field, with nearly everyone on unsuitable hard tyres, but by the time it struck Loeb was midway through the stage, whereas his pursuers had to cope with ever worsened weather.
On the short Peterberg stage that followed, Petter Solberg's second place became more comfortable when his Ford team-mate Jari-Matti Latvala briefly went off the road.
That dropped Latvala to fifth, behind flying stage winner Dani Sordo (Prodrive Mini) and Thierry Neuville (Citroen Junior).
Most of the chaos happened on the famous 46-kilometre Panzerplatte stage. While Loeb and Latvala made it through safely, Solberg damaged the right rear of his Ford and had to stop, Neuville crashed out, and Sordo lost two and a half minutes changing a puncture.
By the end of the stage, Loeb had a 1m29s cushion over Latvala, who had moved back up from fifth to second.
The drama elevated Mikko Hirvonen to a distant third in the second Citroen, while Mads Ostberg jumped from eighth to fourth in one stage, ahead of Ott Tanak and the delayed Sordo.
Chris Atkinson lost a lot of time in the rain on stage seven, but now holds seventh on his first appearance in Motorsport Italia's Mini.
Leading positions after SS9: Pos Driver Team/Car Time/Gap 1. Sebastien Loeb Citroen 2h11m08.6s 2. Jari-Matti Latvala Ford + 1m29.7s 3. Mikko Hirvonen Citroen + 2m05.0s 4. Mads Ostberg Adapta Ford + 2m47.9s 5. Ott Tanak M-Sport Ford + 2m48.7s 6. Dani Sordo Prodrive Mini + 3m57.0s 7. Chris Atkinson Italia Mini + 5m27.9s 8. Sebastien Ogier VW Skoda + 6m37.3s 9. Peter van Merksteijn Jr van Merksteijn Citroen + 7m05.6s 10. Andreas Mikkelsen VW Skoda + 8m12.3s