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GP Week : Issue 121
Tensions within the Citroen camp emerged at the end of an immensely successful 1-2 result for the team on the Acropolis Rally, the halfway mark in the 2011 world championship, when Sebastien Ogier capitalised on running order handicap to snatch victory on the final day from teammate Sebastien Loeb. Clever tactics by Ogier produced the result he desired but reduced the championship advantage for Loeb, though Loeb still gained his 100th podium finish in the series. For half the event, Petter Solberg led, before becoming ensnared in the road-cleaning problems of being front-runner, which heightened the political pressures on the FIA to find a happy solution which would obviate these factors. This was, however, probably to be one of the last occasions in the 2011 season in which running order would play such a major part, and certainly Ogier played his cards to the full. Mikko Hirvonen eventually gained third place, passing Solberg on the final day. In the secondary series, Juho Hanninen won the SWRC category by nearly five minutes from Bernardo Sousa, who was the category winner in Jordan. Citroen now leads Ford by 55 points in the Makes' series, with Petter Solberg's team still the best of the one-driver teams. In the Drivers' series Loeb's lead at the head of the field is 17 points over Hirvonen while Ogier is just five points. The gap between these three front runners and fourth-placed Latvala is now 48 points. Notwithstanding some recent rains in the area. It was clear that the gravel stages would be dry, so running order was critical and tactics were relevant. Championship leader Loeb suffered from driving first car on the road on Day 1, running ahead of Hirvonen, Ogier and Latvala. Solberg (running fifth) took the lead on the first stage, being chased by Latvala, albeit at a distance. Coming in to the final stage of the day, Hirvonen played tactics and dropped back to fourth. Then it was Ogier’s turn to play tactics and, for very little sacrifice, dropped himself behind Hirvonen. But then it all went wrong for the Finns when Latvala had transmission trouble. Jari-Matti secretly alerted his team, leaving Citroen to discover the trouble only when the split timings for Stage 6 started to come through. He lost over three minutes, including time when he pulled over to let the rally leader Solberg go past, and dropped down to eighth – almost four minutes behind the leader. At the end of the first day Solberg had pulled out a lead of nearly a minute, now ahead of Loeb. Hirvonen found himself not only the best non-Citroen, but lying third overall ahead of Ogier. The best tactic appeared to have been Ogier's as he found himself able to pull Solberg in during Day 2 and on the second loop of stages he passed into the lead. 34