Five-time world champion Sebastien Loeb is back on top at the Rally of Portugal. On day 1, the French temporarily lost the pole position to Finnish Mikko Hirvonen. The new leader will have the task of 'sweeping the road' on the final day.
AFP - Five-time world champion Sebastien Loeb is poised to wrap up a comfortable Rally of Portugal victory on Sunday after carving out a 26.8-sec lead thanks to a cleansweep of Saturday's six stages.
The French Citroen driver started the day in third place, but faces the task of 'sweeping' the roads over Sunday's five stages with the surfaces made worse by loose and dusty conditions.
"It’s been a very good day for me," said Loeb. "I did all I could to increase my lead. The road cleaning effect was inconsistent, with some stages cleaning more than others, but the most important things is we have a good lead for tomorrow.
"Maybe it’s not going to be enough to balance being first on the road, because the stages are a bit more twisty and dusty, we’ll just have to wait and see. But overall I couldn’t have hoped for better."
Overnight leader Mikko Hirvonen battled to stay in touch in his Ford Focus, but faded late in the day.
"Tomorrow is a long day and I will have a cleaner road position than Sebastien. As long as I don’t have any problems with dust in the air, or anything like that there’s still a chance of catching him. I’ll try," he said.
Marcus Gronholm, the 2000 and 2002 world champion, saw his return to the championship after an 18-month absence curtailed in a nasty crash on the day's first stage.
"I went a little bit wide in a left-hander and hit a tree with the back of the car. We went off the road, rolled over once, and landed back on our wheels," said Gronholm who had had been fourth overnight in his private Subaru entry.
Gronholm wouldn’t be drawn on whether or not he would return for further races outings this season. "It’s been okay here, it was quite nice up to this morning, but as for more rallies, well, you never know. We will see," he said.
Date created : 2009-04-04