Ogier leads but flying Loeb closes in

Sebastien Ogier will lead into day three in New Zealand, but Sebastien Loeb is now just five seconds behind him after one of the finest drives of the six-time champion's incredible career

Ogier leads but flying Loeb closes in

Loeb looked like he had no hope of victory when he clipped a bridge and damaged his Citroen's door on SS4 yesterday. He fell to eighth place, 1m40s off the lead.

But today the Frenchman has been unstoppable, winning every gravel stage - by huge margins on each run through the tricky Te Akau Coast stage in particular - and surging up the order.

By the midday service he was sixth but still 38.7s away from new leader Ogier (Citroen Junior). He then won New Franklin 2 by 10s, leaping up to third in the process, grabbed second from Ford's Jari-Matti Latvala on the following Baker 2 stage, and then trimmed Ogier's lead to just 5s, although the younger Frenchman reclaimed 0.2s by winning the end of day blast around the Hampton Downs track.

"It's been an incredible day," said Loeb. "Flat-out from the start to the end. Really very, very good times. We've made up our gap now, we are second but only 5s behind Ogier so everything is possible again tomorrow.

"I don't know what to say. I wanted to do this. I knew with my road position it was possible to do these things, but now we've done it. I don't think I could have done any better."

While Loeb's speed had stunned the rest of the field, Ogier had also driven well all day - pulling away from Friday rivals Latvala, Petter Solberg and Dani Sordo despite his lack of experience on the event.

"It's the first time I've led a rally after the second day," said Ogier. "It's a very good day at the moment but there's still a long way to go in the morning.

"It will be very hard to stay ahead of Seb, but I'll do my best. It was incredible, he was very, very fast. For sure he had a good position on the road, but he did incredible times."

Latvala is now 33s behind Ogier in third, with Sordo and Solberg a further 14s and 20s back respectively.

Ford's team leader Mikko Hirvonen has closed on Solberg, but is still a minute off the lead after a hugely frustrating first two days in which he has never been on the pace.

"There's a lot to learn," said Hirvonen of his poor times. "We can't go faster really. Okay I made a mistake in the morning but after that it's been a good drive and this is what we have."

He too was astounded by Loeb's performance.

"It's been quite amazing, really unbelievable driving," Hirvonen admitted. "I wonder if they've found something again from Citroen to go even faster, because we can't go any faster."

Further back, Jari Ketomaa and Hayden Paddon continue to lead S2000 and Production respectively by comfortable margins.

Pos Driver Car Time/Gap 1. Sebastien Ogier Citroen 3h05m40.4s 2. Sebastien Loeb Citroen + 5.3s 3. Jari-Matti Latvala Ford + 33.2s 4. Dani Sordo Citroen + 47.5s 5. Petter Solberg Citroen + 53.6s 6. Mikko Hirvonen Ford + 1m00.2s 7. Matthew Wilson Ford + 3m04.9s 8. Henning Solberg Ford + 5m41.4s 9. Jari Ketomaa Ford + 8m12.7s 10. Federico Villagra Ford + 8m28.8s 
shares
comments
Ford's victory hopes rest on Latvala
Previous article

Ford's victory hopes rest on Latvala

Next article

Solberg promises podium charge

Solberg promises podium charge
Load comments
How WRC legend Ogier will be remembered by his peers Plus

How WRC legend Ogier will be remembered by his peers

After winning his eighth WRC title, Sebastien Ogier has drawn the curtain on his full-time rallying career. To understand Ogier's legacy, many of his former rivals, team-mates and colleagues have shared their thoughts on a vastly successful career

WRC
Nov 26, 2021
Ranking lost WRC legend Richard Burns' 10 best rallies Plus

Ranking lost WRC legend Richard Burns' 10 best rallies

Richard Burns was a determined driver who took on the best rally drivers in the world during a boom period in the early 2000s, and beat them. On the 20th anniversary of his crowning glory in winning the 2001 WRC title, and 16 years on from his death on the same date, Autosport picks out his 10 greatest drives

WRC
Nov 25, 2021
The internal focus that made Burns a legendary world rally champion Plus

The internal focus that made Burns a legendary world rally champion

At the turn of the millennium, WRC was full to the brim with rallying's great and good - and 20 years ago on this day, Richard Burns became England's first world rally champion. Although Burns' natural talent drove him to the top, his steely determination and mental strength was the key attribute behind his title-winning form

WRC
Nov 25, 2021
How Ogier emerged out of Loeb's shadow to form his own WRC legend Plus

How Ogier emerged out of Loeb's shadow to form his own WRC legend

OPINION: Adding an eighth WRC title to his name, Sebastien Ogier has bowed out from full-time rallying in style. Having been compared throughout his career with nine-time champion Sebastien Loeb, Ogier has convincingly demonstrated that he can stand on his own as one of the greatest rally drivers in history

WRC
Nov 22, 2021
How confronting self-doubt drove Ogier to become a WRC legend Plus

How confronting self-doubt drove Ogier to become a WRC legend

This weekend's Rally Monza marks the end of an era in the World Rally Championship, as Sebastien Ogier prepares to bring down the curtain on his full-time career with an eighth title. For all his enduring success, the Toyota driver reveals in an exclusive interview that lingering insecurities have compelled his quest for perfection

WRC
Nov 18, 2021
The third generation McRae on his way to the WRC Plus

The third generation McRae on his way to the WRC

The McRae family name is steeped in rallying history, with eight British titles between Jimmy, Colin and Alister - plus the small matter of the 1995 WRC title too. Next on the conveyor of talent is Alister's 17-year-old Max McRae, who’s setting out in Australia to conquer the world of rallying and return the famous name to the WRC...

WRC
Nov 12, 2021
Inside Hyundai’s radical approach to prepare for the WRC hybrid era Plus

Inside Hyundai’s radical approach to prepare for the WRC hybrid era

As the World Rally Championship undergoes its biggest shift in regulations for a generation, teams are taking radical measures to prepare for its new era. Hyundai's unique approach involved conducting a private 1500km rally in Italy and Autosport went to see how the team is preparing for 2022

WRC
Nov 4, 2021
How Neuville stole the show from Ogier vs Evans slugfest in Spain Plus

How Neuville stole the show from Ogier vs Evans slugfest in Spain

While all pre-event chat focused on the two World Rally Championship title fighters, their closest challenger charged into the spotlight on Rally Spain. Thierry Neuville's star turn and another strong drive from Elfyn Evans in his fight with Sebastien Ogier made for an intriguing event as the 2021 campaign nears its crunch point

WRC
Oct 18, 2021