Ogier and Ingrassia battling for victory in France


The first leg of Rally France-Alsace was marked by the retirement of Sébastien Loeb and Daniel Elena (mechanical problem), who will not score any points in the eleventh round of the FIA World Rally Championship.

SébastienOgier and Julien Ingrassia, who were in front for most of the day, are currently lying third, less than three seconds behind the leader. Petter Solberg and Chris Patterson in  second place are also among the potential victory contenders.

The crews in Rally France-Alsace, who received a huge ovation from the public at the start ceremony in thetown centre on Thursday evening, left Strasbourg today before dawn to go to the start of the first stage. Theleg consisted of four stages to be covered twice with a return to the service park at midday.Sébastien Loeb was the first to go for it and in the Klevener vines (SS1), he set the quickest time and tookthe lead in the rally. His team-mate, Sébastien Ogier, fought back immediately in Ungersberg and closed thegap to Loeb to 1/10s! The rally was turned on its head in Pays d’Ormont, the stage that had helped Loeb toconsolidate his victory in 2010. This year, however, the seven-time world champion saw his hopes go up insmoke. At the 27th kilometer mark, a warning light came on showing an oil pressure fall in the engine. Afterstopping to check the situation, the current leader of the world championship had to retire with enginefailure.

“There’s never a right time for something like this to hit us, but it’s the last rally in which I would have wantedit to happen,” said the Citroën Total World Rally Team driver. “I didn’t feel it coming. There’s not much tobe said. It really is a pity as I felt pretty good. The car was pleasant to drive and I liked the stages. Even if myrivals in the world championship still have a long way to go, for me coming away empty handed doesn’t helpmy chances in the drivers’ title chase. I’m going to have to fight hard in the last two rallies of the season if Iwant to win my eight world crown.”

When the crews came back to the Zénith in Strasbourg for the midday service halt, Sébastien Ogier was inthe lead with 5 seconds in hand over Petter Solberg. “Seb’s retirement isn’t good news for the team. Nowthere’s a bit more pressure on our shoulders. We’ll have to score a big haul of points in the context of theManufacturers’ World Championship. Things went off pretty well this morning even if I’m still not completelyflat out.”

Dani Sordo, Petter Solberg and Sébastien Ogier went at it hammer and tongs in the afternoon loop finishingin that order. “I’m not all that happy as I had the impression that something wasn’t working properly on thecar,” said the Citroën driver after the finish of the leg. “The team checked it during the service halt andeverything’s normal. The gaps are still very small and we’re only three seconds behind Dani. It’s not over yetby a long chalk and I’ll have to push really hard tomorrow to get back in front.”The figuresSébastien Loeb / Daniel Elena Sébastien Ogier / Julien IngrassiaSS1: Klevener 1 (9,68 km) 1st 1st 3rd +3.7s 3rd +3 .7sSS2: Ungersberg 1 (15,45 km) 3rd +3.6s 1st 1st 2nd +0.1sSS3: Pays d’Ormont 1 (36,00 km) - - 1st 1stSS4: Salm 1 (13,06 km) - - 4th +7.9s 1stSS5: Klevener 2 (9,68 km) - - 1st 1stSS6: Ungersberg 2 (15,45 km) - - 4th +2.7s 1stSS7: Pays d’Ormont 2 (36,00 km) - - 4th +7.6s 2nd +2.6sSS8: Salm 2 (13,06 km) - - 3rd +3.2s 3rd +2.8s

Fastest stage timesDay 1 – SS1: Sébastien Loeb (Citroën DS3 WRC) – SS2 and 3: Sébastien Ogier (Citroën DS3 WRC) – SS4:Jari-Matti Latvala (Ford Fiesta) – SS5: Ogier – SS6 and 7: Petter Solberg (Citroën DS3 WRC) – SS8: DaniSordo (Mini JCW)Best performers: Ogier, 3 fastest times - Solberg, 2 – Loeb, Latvala and Sordo, 1 each.Leaders: SS1 and 2 : Loeb – SS3 to 6: Ogier – SS7: Solberg – SS8: Sordo.

Overall classification, day 11 D. Sordo / C. del Barrio Mini JCW 1h23m 02.1s2 P. Solberg / C. Patterson Citroën DS3 WRC +1.0s3 S. Ogier / J. Ingrassia Citroën DS3 WRC +2.8s4 K. Meeke / P. Nagle Mini JCW +54.5s5 JM. Latvala / M. Antilla Ford Fiesta RS WRC +1m 13.7s6 M. Hirvonen / J. Lehtinen Ford Fiesta RS WRC +1m 20.6s7 A. Araujo / M. Ramalho Mini JCW +2m 23.1s8 M. Ostberg / J. Andersson Ford Fiesta RS WRC +2m 36.8s9 D. Kuipers / F. Miclotte Ford Fiesta RS WRC +2m 46.8s10 H. Solberg / I. Minor Ford Fiesta RS WRC +3m