Loeb still leads as Hirvonen charges
|By Matt Beer||Sunday, October 25th 2009, 09:49 GMT|
Sebastien Loeb remains on course for victory in the title-deciding Rally GB but cannot relax as Mikko Hirvonen has cut his lead to 18s with two stages to go.
Hirvonen was pessimistic about his chances after only taking half a second out of Loeb's 30s overnight advantage on today's first stage.
But on the subsequent Rheola stage Hirvonen gained 11.2s on Loeb, bringing the gap between the Citroen and the Ford down to 18.2s.
"I'm really doing all I can," said Hirvonen. "It's so slippery and it's difficult for everyone, but it's good we took some time out of him.
"With two more to go it's still a big gap, but I have nothing to lose so I'm going to go for it."
Loeb played down the time loss but felt he had taken it too easy on the slippery stage.
"It was very, very muddy so I didn't try hard," he said. "I just took it easy. It's okay, it's no problem. Maybe we lost a bit too much in this one, but we'll see in the next one."
Petter Solberg has also continued to charge, bringing his deficit to third-placed works Citroen driver Dani Sordo down to 14.6s.
The cars are now heading for refuelling - today's schedule not including a service break - prior to the repeat run through Port Talbot and Rheola that will decide the result of the rally and the world championship.
The only change further back has been a major scare for eighth-placed Jari-Matti Latvala, who crashed his Ford into a bank after the finish of Rheola.
"It had started to rain a little bit, and you come over a jump to the finish and it was very, very slippery and I couldn't get stopped enough for the corner after the finish," Latvala explained.
The Finn, co-driver Miikka Antilla and a group of spectators managed to get the car back on course and were initially optimistic that it had not sustained any significant damage.
Leading positions after SS14:
Pos Driver Car Time/Gap 1. Sebastien Loeb Citroen 2h54m07.9s 2. Mikko Hirvonen Ford + 18.2s 3. Petter Solberg Citroen + 1m25.0s 4. Dani Sordo Citroen + 1m39.6s 5. Sebastien Ogier Citroen + 4m44.4s 6. Henning Solberg Ford + 5m55.7s 7. Matthew Wilson Ford + 7m13.3s 8. Jari-Matti Latvala Ford + 8m07.2s 9. Conrad Rautenbach Citroen + 13m16.2s 10. Aaron Burkart Citroen + 18m34.2s