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FIA World Rally Championship

Sebastien Loeb Increases His Lead Atop Rally Mexico Standings

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Sebastien Loeb (Photo Credit: Citroen Racing Media)

Sebastien Loeb (Photo Credit: Citroen Racing Media)

Sebastien Loeb extended his lead on day two of Rally Mexico, adding to the 11 second lead he brought into the day over Citroen teammate Mikko Hirvonen.

After gaining on the leader on the day's opening, and rally's thirteenth stage – the 29.9km Ibarrilla test – Hirvonen lost vital seconds to Loeb on each of the day's seven remaining stages – that number reduced from the scheduled eight after the fourth Super Special of the event, intended to be stage 19 was cancelled.

“I pushed really hard on Otates 1 [Stage 14] because Mikko had closed the gap a little on the previous stage,” said Loeb at the end of the day. “It wasn't easy, I had to remain focussed on a road which is pretty relentless for the drivers. The bends just keep coming, one after another, and I really had to hang on in there to set a good time. I didn't need to worry about looking after my tyres – Michelin has provided us with the perfect rubber for this surface. Obviously, the situation has worked out favourably for us. We should be able to use our lead to control the race whilst bearing in mind that an unforeseen incident could still change the course of the rally.”

For JariMatti Latvala the second day of Rally Mexico began as the second day began as the first ended. After a broken suspension knocked him out of the lead Latvala had fought back to fourth by the end of day one, and fourth became third after he won one the opening stage.

That work was all undone on stage fifteen when a broken wheel and subsequent tyre deflation on the Finn's Fiesta lost him nearly 50 seconds to stage winner Loeb and dropped him back off the podium behind fellow Ford driver Petter Solberg.

With Solberg more than two minutes behind Hirvonen overall, the second place man was able to ease off, helping Loeb's cause in securing a likely second win of the season to add to his Monte Carlo triumph.

“I eased off a little after I found out that Jari had had problems,” explained Hirvonen. “There was no point in trying to catch Seb. Yesterday, when I pushed really hard, he was still one or two seconds quicker than me. I need to build up more experience to be able to compete with him. It's really a matter of confidence.”

The two Ford works drivers split the remaining four stages of the day, Latvala picking up three more stage victories and retaking third place from Solberg. Victory on the final stage cut the arrear to Hirvonen in second place to just under two minutes, the Citroen driver losing time when he came across the debris left by Evgeny Novikov‘s rally ending crash.

The crash forced the Russian out of seventh place, promoting Nasser AlAttiyah, Armindo Araujo and Sebastien Ogier and bringing Ken Block into the top ten at the end of a day on which his Monster World Rally Team teammate Chris Atkinson had crashed out with brake failure after a stage's flying finish.

In the Production World Rally Championship Benito Guerra continues to lead, now two minutes to the good over Nicolas Fuchs. Polish driver Michal Kosciuszko, who had started the day second behind Guerra dropped out of battle for the lead after incurring a penalty for being late to start the stage before crashing out, trying to recoup some of the lost time.

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