Sébastien Loeb’s incredible fightback!
Rally New Zealand (6-9 May 2010) – Day 2

Sébastien Loeb and Daniel Elena started the morning 1m 20s behind the leader and gave one of their most amazing performances ever in the second leg of Rally New Zealand. The Citroën Total World Rally Team crew set almost all the fastest times, and this evening they are lying second 5.3s behind Sébastien Ogier and Julien Ingrassia. Dani Sordo and Marc Marti had a steady day and are in fourth place overall.

After the first day in the north of Auckland, the crews in Rally New Zealand headed south. The route was about the same length as yesterday’s, and consisted of two runs through a loop of four stages : three on gravel and one on asphalt on the Hampton Down circuit. The midday service park was installed in the middle of a picturesque paddock packed with GT cars from the national championship.

Sébastien Loeb and Daniel Elena kicked off the day in seventh place overall so they had an ideal starting position. The six-time world championship winning duo had the advantage of a well-swept road and they began by setting the fastest time in New Franklin 1 (SS10). It was the same story in Baker and then Loeb struck a mighty blow in Te Akau Coast 1 (SS12). At the end of the 30,89-km gravel stage, Seb was 22 seconds quicker than his immediate pursuer! This closed the gap to the leader to under 40 seconds!

“This morning’s been quite simply perfect,” smiled Seb in the midday sevice park. “We noted that there was a lot of sweeping done in SS12 and I knew I could open up some big gaps because of our position on the road. It probably won’t be so easy this afternoon, but we’re going to continue to go flat out to fight our way back up the time sheets. I can’t really say at this point in time if we can aim for victory. The leader’s going quickly and it doesn’t look like he wants to give up his position!”

The afternoon’s loop provided an answer to this question. Seb again proved unbeatable banging in three fastest times on the gravel stages and he finished the second leg in second place 5.3s behind Sébastien Ogier. “We’ve now pulled back all the time we lost due to our off yesterday. We really enjoyed ourselves today. We were able to get the utmost out of our C4 WRC’s potential, and the roads are simply magnificent. We’re well placed to aim for victory tomorrow, but above all we’ll have to cope with a short leg that’s full of traps.”

Dani Sordo and Marc Marti went out in fourth place this morning and had moved up to third by midday. After the second loop the Spanish crew found themselves back where they started. “I didn’t manage to get into the right groove today,” explained Sordo in the service park at the end of the leg. “The grip was more consistent today, and I felt more at ease in the car. Even so, I still couldn’t set good times in relation to my rivals. The day’s over and I’m now thinking about tomorrow. We’re still in the running for the third step of the podium.”

Classification at the end of the second day
1. Ogier / Ingrassia Citroën C4 3h05’40’’4
2. Loeb / Elena Citroën C4 +5’’3
2. Latvala / Anttila Ford Focus +33’’2
4. Sordo / Marti Citroën C4 +47’’5
3. P. Solberg / Mills Citroën C4 +53’’6
5. Hirvonen / Lehtinen Ford Focus +1’00’’2
6. Wilson / Martin Ford Focus +3’04’’9
8. H. Solberg / Minor Ford Focus +5’46’’4
9. Ketomaa / Stenberg Ford Fiesta +8’17’’7
10. Villagra / Perez Companc Ford Focus +8’28’’8

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