Loeb still leads as Solberg stars
|By Matt Beer||Saturday, March 14th 2009, 15:12 GMT|
Sebastien Loeb remains on course for Cyprus Rally victory, but the star of the second afternoon was Petter Solberg - who won both stages in his outdated Citroen Xsara.
With conditions now dry, Loeb was clearing the top layer of dust from the stages, and was also troubled by overheating brakes, plus a stall on SS11. Despite these problems, he completed the day 49.8 seconds ahead of second-placed Mikko Hirvonen.
"It's been a difficult afternoon, two very difficult stages," said Loeb. "We lost some time, but we're still in the lead and that's the most important thing."
Hirvonen reduced Loeb's lead by 20s during this afternoon's two stages, having been increasingly comfortable with his Ford Focus as the day progressed.
"I've finally learnt how to drive!" Hirvonen joked. "There's still a long day tomorrow, so we'll go flat-out. Hopefully I can keep this rhythm and we can put some pressure on Sebastien. It's still a very big gap and I don't think we can close it just by driving (faster), but you never know."
Dani Sordo has lost touch with Hirvonen as the Finn picked up pace, and the Citroen driver is now at risk of losing third place to the flying Solberg. The former champion is just 15.9s behind Sordo, having taken 1m08s out of his advantage in only two stages.
"Bloody hell, this rally's going well," said Solberg. "The car is going much better when it's dry like this, and I'm having really good fun."
Stobart Ford's Matthew Wilson has cemented his fifth place, with Sebastien Ogier reclaiming sixth from his Citroen Junior team-mate Evgeny Novikov when the Russian had a spin on SS10, but failing to close on Wilson, who goes into the final day with a 29.1s cushion over Ogier.
Novikov fought back following his error by setting the third-fastest time on SS11 - despite spinning and stalling again along the way.
Patrik Sandell's hopes of taking the Production class lead from Armindo Araujo took a blow when the Red Bull Skoda overshot a junction on SS10, allowing Ralliart Italy Mitsubishi driver Araujo to take a 16s advantage into Sunday. Nasser Al-Attiyah is now within a minute of Araujo as well having continued his charge in third place.
Martin Prokop was happier with his Suzuki this afternoon and has stabilised his Junior WRC lead over Michal Kosciuszko's Citroen at just over two minutes.
Leading positions after day two:
Pos Driver Car Time 1. Sebastien Loeb Citroen 3h33:43.8 2. Mikko Hirvonen Ford + 49.8 3. Dani Sordo Citroen + 1:36.0 4. Petter Solberg Citroen + 1:51.9 5. Matthew Wilson Ford + 5:13.7 6. Sebastien Ogier Citroen + 5:42.8 7. Evgeny Novikov Citroen + 6:22.8 8. Conrad Rautenbach Citroen + 7:23.5 9. Federico Villagra Ford + 9:00.9 10. Khalid Al Qassimi Ford + 9:29.6