Wales Rally GB 2011 - Day 2
There was high drama on the first full day of rallying when rally leader Mikko Hirvonen spun his Ford Abu Dhabi Fiesta RS WRC, damaging the radiator and losing coolant. This led to terminal engine damage and despite heroic efforts from his Msport team mechanics, made retirement inevitable and also ended Mikko's hopes of scoring his maiden WRC championship. Instead, it was a now familiar story and Sebastien Loeb rewrote the record books - again and sealed the title for an unprecedented 8th time as soon as the Finn, his only challenger, was confirmed as a retirement.
Day two ended with champion elect Loeb holding a slender 1.2 second overall lead over Mikko's team mate Jari-Matti Latvala, forced to drive to team orders on at least three occasions this year in order to maintain Hirvonen's title hopes. Without the shackles of defering to his team leader, Latvala can now drive all out for victory, albeit against a man who's just shaken off the shackles of winning the 2011 world rally title!
Characteristically, it was typical November weather in Wales on Friday for day two of its WRC event, Wales Rally GB. Rain meaning the surviving crews were greeted with wet and slippery stages as they left the start at Llandudno as the morning dawned.
While the MINI John Cooper Works WRC of Kris Meeke and Paul Nagle will start day three of Wales Rally GB eighth overall, the sister car of Dani Sordo and Carlos del Barrio will restart on Saturday under the SupeRally rules after crashing out on the second stage of the Friday.
It wasn't an easy day for either of the MINI WRC Team crews. On the second stage of the day the Spaniards went off the road after braking too late. Even though they could not get back on the road, the damage was not bad and they will be re-starting from Cardiff on Saturday morning.
For Meeke it was a spin that resulted in him losing an alternator belt on stage seven and dropping two and a half minutes. Luckily a spare was carried in the car, so the repairs were carried out by the crew. Even though this dropped Meeke down from sixth to 11th overall, he was soon back in his stride setting the second fastest time on stage eight and the fastest on stage nine. This is the first fastest stage time set on this event by a British driver since 2005.
Friday was the longest day of the rally in terms of stage distance, with 141.43 kilometres. Saturday will see another six stages and 128.06 kilometres of competition. Overnight, the cars traveled back to Cardiff from the service park in Builth Wells, and leave the Welsh capital in darkness from 06.00 to arrive back at service just before 08.00.
12th November, 2011