The MINI WRC Team is still fighting for the lead of Rally France-Alsace after Dani Sordo (ES) and Carlos del Barrio (ES) kept Sébastien Ogier (FR) well within their sights on day two of the event. As the cars came into the overnight halt at Strasbourg the number 37 MINI John Cooper Works WRC was just 9.5secs behind the Citroen. Unfortunately the day didn’t go according to plan for Kris Meeke (GB) and Paul Nagle (IR), as their number 52 MINI John Cooper Works WRC left the road on stage 13 and the resulting accident saw them out of the rally with a badly damaged car.The battle for the top position started from the first stage of the day. Sordo hung onto his lead by 0.3secs, but then on the next Petter Solberg (NO) managed to get in front by 0.6secs. However, this was short lived as on the third stage of the day Solberg had a puncture, but in the meantime Ogier beat Sordo and went in front by 3.3secs. Stage 12 was 24 kilometres long with 17 of these downhill, and here Sordo came back into his own, set the fastest time and at the end of it was 0.2secs in front. Unfortunately all had not gone so well for Meeke as he lost his fourth place here to Jari-Matti Latvala (FI) who moved half a second in front. All was set for a dramatic second loop after remote service in Colmar. Sadly the first drama was for Meeke, who went off on a right hander in SS13 and ended up about 30 feet down a bank. While the crew was okay, the MINI was badly damaged after hitting a tree stump on the co-driver’s side. The battle for the lead continued, but Ogier managed to take some more time out of Sordo, and was leading into the overnight halt in Strasbourg.
For the third and final day there will be six stages and 40.66 kilometres of competition. The final test is the 4.20 kilometre power stage round Haguenau, but unfortunately the most famous person from this town, Sébastien Loeb (FR), will be missing as he did not re-start after his Citroen retired on day one. The first stage of the day will start at 07.18 and the last one at 13.08.
Dave Wilcock, Technical Director:
“The day started really well with Dani on form. It was obvious from the start Sébastien Ogier was on a big push and Dani was just doing his best to match his pace. Dani did a good job and put in a fastest stage time just before the lunch time regroup to keep in P1. Kris had a little issue on the stage just before regroup, which cost him a bit of time and Jari-Matti Latvala just piped him and dropped him down to fifth, but he was doing some very good splits during that first loop. Then at regroup both drivers were very calm and relaxed, the cars were perfect and required very little work. Unfortunately for Kris a couple of kilometres into the first stage of the second loop he just went a bit wide on a high speed fifth gear corner, got onto some gravel, dropped off the road and did some extensive damage to the car. Both Kris and Paul are okay, but a little bit shaken up and sore. For Dani, he is in a dog fight with Ogier right now, who is pushing very, very hard and just edging away from us, but we are still in single digits. It is more than we could have wished for to be in a battle with one of the best drivers and best cars in the championship. We have a few tricks up our sleeves for tomorrow’s more typical vineyard stages. We shall aim to keep pushing and see what comes of it.”
“I suppose I have to admit I am not happy to be second, but if you stop and think about our performance with the car, after having covered so few kilometres and to be fighting for best stage times, then this is great. I think before the rally if we had been speaking about being second it would have been amazing, now people are asking me why I am not leading. It is really great to be just 9.5 seconds behind Sébastien Ogier. Everything is still possible, but tomorrow is a short day with some difficult gravel sections. If he doesn’t make any mistakes he will be difficult to beat, as today we took some small risks and still didn’t beat him. However, we will still keep trying for the win, but will still be happy to finish second.”
“This afternoon I just got caught out in one corner. I was a little bit faster than before. I had made a small adjustment to the pace note, tried to go a little bit faster in the corner, and that was too fast, so we simply understeered off the road. It was unfortunate, as I was not going out to try any harder. I was just going out to try and improve on this morning and build up my knowledge, but I got caught out. Yes just too fast, as simple as that. I was just a bit ambitious, and it was completely my mistake. I have to take it on the chin. I am probably my own worst enemy some times, as I want to be here competing with these guys. It is hard to just settle and learn, and I have to do that sometimes, but it ended up a bit soon for me this weekend. We have to pick ourselves up. Spain is going to be another learning event, as well as Rally GB, so we are going to have to settle ourselves for a few events and just get the experience before we can run with the guys at the front.”