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2012-05-27 11:24

PROBLEM TO COME: Finn Jari-Matti Latvala and co-driver Mikka Anttila raise a dust storm with their Ford Fiesta RS WRC on the 2012 Acropolis rally on May 26. They were eventually stopped with a broken wheel. Image: AFP

Graham Wood

ATHENS, Greece - Sebastian Loeb maintained his lead in the Rally of Greece ahead of Petter Solberg on Saturday as Jari-Matti Latvala's challenge faded after a puncture.

French World champion Loeb, who has not won in Greece in four previous attempts, has a 10.2sec lead to protect heading into the final day on Sunday after Solberg chipped away at his advantage in the day’s final stage.


Norwegian Solberg, in a Ford Fiesta RS, completed the new 21.36km test 3.9sec quicker than Citroen DS3 driver Loeb, who struggled in heavy rain at the start of his run.

"Solberg was faster than me in the stage. We had heavy rain at the start, so we will see for tomorrow. We have to hold on to the lead, I am ready for a fight," eight-times World champion Loeb said.
Solberg said he took no risks.

"I was hoping to get some time back so it's fantastic. I would like to have it a bit less than 10sec but it will be very interesting tomorrow."

Mads Ostberg and Latvala shared the third-fastest time on the final stage with the latter's performance impressive considering he was driving with only three working brakes.


Latvala began the day only 6.5sec behind Loeb in second spot and had cut the gap to just 2.2 at the start of stage 14 before picking up a slow puncture and eventually having to stop to change the damaged wheel about four kilometres from the finish.

"It was my mistake," said Latvala. "I was slightly wide at the beginning of the stage and hit a bank. There was a little touch but there was something sharp and it broke the tyre. It's very disappointing.

“Normally, with a slow puncture, I should be able to drive for quite a long time but unfortunately I broke the wheel and we had to stop to change it."

Loeb is leading the overall World championship after five rounds on 91 points ahead of Solberg on 73, Mikko Hirvonen with 70 and Ostberg on 68.


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