Loeb pulls away on opening stages
|By Matt Beer||Friday, October 23rd 2009, 09:43 GMT|
Sebastien Loeb has the early advantage in the World Rally Championship battle, having established an 8.9s lead over title rival Mikko Hirvonen on the opening loop of the Rally GB.
Citroen driver Loeb edged a few seconds ahead of Ford's Hirvonen on SS1 and SS2 - then really unleashed his pace on Myherin, where he beat Hirvonen by 6s.
"Really, really good stage - no mistakes, flat out everywhere, good braking, good lines," said Loeb. "Really happy with the car. So for the moment everything is okay."
But despite Loeb pulling away, Hirvonen remains upbeat.
"It's not going so well, but it's not too bad either," he said. "Sebastien is really flying, but we'll have to try again. No worries.
"It's not a first on the road thing, there are places where I'm braking too early and taking it too steady."
The two championship contenders are currently in a class of their own at the front of the field. Dani Sordo and Petter Solberg are in a close fight for third, half a minute adrift of Loeb. The two Citroen drivers have swapped places on every stage so far, with Sordo currently ahead.
Sebastien Ogier is in a lonely fifth for Citroen Junior, ahead of the two Stobart Fords - with Henning Solberg frustrated by an engine that has lapsed onto three cylinders at times, and Matthew Wilson struggling for traction. Mads Ostberg (Adapta Subaru) was battling with the Stobart duo until a suspension problem struck on Myherin.
Jari-Matti Latvala has fallen to 10th due to the driveshaft breakage his Ford suffered on SS1. He has limped through the rest of the loop, picking up damage on SS2 when a braking issue caused by the driveshaft problem caused him to clip a bank, and is now over four minutes behind the leaders.
Leading positions after SS3:
Pos Driver Car Time/Gap 1. Sebastien Loeb Citroen 37m23.2s 2. Mikko Hirvonen Ford + 8.9s 3. Dani Sordo Citroen + 27.7s 4. Petter Solberg Citroen + 31.1s 5. Sebastien Ogier Citroen + 1m10.0s 6. Henning Solberg Ford + 1m46.3s 7. Matthew Wilson Ford + 1m52.6s 8. Mads Ostberg Subaru + 2m42.3s 9. Conrad Rautenbach Citroen + 3m06.8s 10. Jari-Matti Latvala Ford + 4m13.2s