Loeb on brink of Sardinia win
|By Matt Beer||Sunday, May 8th 2011, 07:13 GMT|
Sebastien Loeb looks certain of victory in Sardinia with just one stage to go, but Mikko Hirvonen and Petter Solberg are only 1.3 seconds apart in the battle for second.
Loeb's 28s overnight lead always looked adequate with today's itinerary consisting of just three stages on the morning loop and then the eight-kilometre power stage.
Hirvonen (Ford) gained a few seconds on Loeb's Citroen on the opening Gallura stage, lost a few with a slight error on Monte Olia, but then took 10.5s out of the leader when Loeb found the surface on Terranova particularly slippery for the first car on the road.
That will not be enough for Hirvonen, who is still 18.5s off the lead, and must now focus on the closing Solberg. The Norwegian was frustrated with the handling of his Solberg Citroen on SS15 after a damper change, but subsequent set-up adjustments transformed the car and he outpaced Hirvonen by 10s and Loeb by 21s on Terranova.
Sebastien Ogier's podium hopes appear to be over. He had been running third in the second works Citroen until hitting a rock on SS17 and breaking his left rear suspension. Ogier managed to nurse the car through the stage, losing just over a minute, and continues in fourth place ahead of Mads Ostberg (Stobart Ford). The latter had a scare with a mistake on SS16 but remains safely clear of Dani Sordo's Mini.
Leading positions after SS18: Pos Driver Team/Car Time/Gap 1. Sebastien Loeb Citroen 3h39m22.9s 2. Mikko Hirvonen Ford + 18.5s 3. Petter Solberg Solberg Citroen + 19.8s 4. Sebastien Ogier Citroen + 1m31.2s 5. Mads Ostberg Stobart Ford + 2m34.4s 6. Dani Sordo Mini + 3m15.4s 7. Ott Tanak MM Ford + 6m41.9s 8. Juho Hanninen Red Bull Skoda + 7m17.0s 9. Matthew Wilson Stobart Ford + 7m44.6s 10. Nasser Al-Attiyah Barwa Ford + 12m06.2s