Loeb on course for 70th win of WRC career after series' longest stage in Argentina
|By Matt Beer||Sunday, April 29th 2012, 14:23 GMT|
Sebastien Loeb remains on course for the 70th win of his World Rally Championship career after making it safely through the series' longest stage on Sunday morning in Argentina.
With Citroen having asked Loeb and second-placed team-mate Mikko Hirvonen to hold position on Saturday, there were no upsets on the 65.74-kilometre Matadero-Ambul stage that kicked off the final day.
Despite the team instruction, Hirvonen inadvertently closed to within 0.2 seconds of taking the lead from Loeb on the following Mina Clavero/Giulio Cesare stage, before backing off again and letting his team-mate re-establish a 1.3s cushion on El Condor/Copina, the final stage before midday service.
Dani Sordo escaped a spin on the long stage to continue in third for Ford, ahead of Mads Ostberg (Adapta Ford). Martin Prokop still looks set for fifth in the Czech National Ford, with sixth likely to be the limit of Thierry Neuville's charge back up the order for Citroen Junior under Rally 2.
The tight battle between the two Volkswagen Skodas came to an end on SS15, when Andreas Mikkelsen sustained suspension damage, leaving Sebastien Ogier in a lonely seventh - although Ford's Petter Solberg, fastest on all three Sunday stages so far, is closing in and is now 48s behind heading into the final loop.
Leading positions after SS16: Pos Driver Team/Car Time/Gap 1. Sebastien Loeb Citroen 5h06m35.7s 2. Mikko Hirvonen Citroen + 1.3s 3. Dani Sordo Ford + 1m38.1s 4. Mads Ostberg Adapta Ford + 3m01.6s 5. Martin Prokop Czech Ford + 9m14.1s 6. Thierry Neuville Citroen Junior + 11m08.0s 7. Sebastien Ogier VW Skoda + 11m37.3s 8. Petter Solberg Ford + 12m25.5s 9. Armindo Araujo Portugal Mini + 15m45.5s 10. Evgeny Novikov M-Sport Ford + 21m13.9s