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GP Week : Issue 167
34 GPWEEK.com // PARTNERS: Six regular championship competitors started in the SWRC support category with Alastair Fisher a Guest driver in the old original M-Sport Fiesta. There were problems for the two championship favourites. PG Andersson in the Proton went off the road on the first day and Hayden Paddon had electrical troubles, so both of them drove on under SupeRally rules leaving a great battle at the front between Craig Breen in his old 2-litre Fiesta (above) and Yazeed Al Rajhi in his 1.6 turbo S2000. Also in trouble on Day 1 was Fisher with broken suspension. At the end of Day 2 the Saudi driver was ahead by 0.1 seconds, but then came the announcement that he had been recorded by the police on two occasions for breaking the road speed limits. This led to a mandatory five minute time penalty which left Breen with a lead of over two minutes in front of Andersson's teammate Tom Cave with Al Rajhi in third place. Maciej Oleksowicz had a difficult rally but struggled through to fourth, and the three Day 1 miscreants finished in the three remaining positions. In the title stakes, both the series leader Andersson's and Paddon's problems and their low points scores meant Breen's victory revived his title hopes. Five drivers remain in the title hunt; those three, Oleksowicz and Al Rajhi with 21 points separating them, with just two (asphalt) rounds to go. RALLY >>> WALES GB Breen the survivor for win Ott Tanak was driving in a solid sixth place until three stages before the end when the suspension broke. This elevated Evgeniy Novikov, ahead of Thierry Neuville, Matthew Wilson (on his first events since Monte Carlo), Martin Prokop and eventually Nasser Al Attiyah. The first half of the event had been processional, thanks to the consequence of reverse order running, but the final morning saw a fantastic fight for second place, eventually going on the penultimate stage to Loeb. Mads Ostberg yet again finished the top non-works driver, Sebastian Ogier was again well away the fastest S2000 driver, and enjoyed battling with various World Rally Cars. Chris Atkinson had the old model 01A Mini and had a series of minor problems but eventually came home in 11th place after damaging the rear suspension. Teammate Paulo Nobre stopped on the final day with a broken alternator cable. The effect of the Ford domination was evidenced by the new enhanced official split timing facility, able to detect the fastest driver on every sector of the rally. On the first two days, Ford drivers were quickest on 53 splits, Citroens on 9. The real miracle then became clear. Despite the Citroen's amazing disappointment of performance, Loeb contained the situation and was able to keep in touch with the Fords. So what was the secret behind Latvala's faultless command of the event? Jari Matti: "Fords have always been quick on this event. When you can get it all together it works. For me my feeling I could win came on Stage 3, Myherin, my favourite stage ... but I wasn't confident of winning however until right before the finish – I was always waiting for Citroen to strike back.” Malcolm Wilson: "He was much more relaxed; it was noticeable. There was no pressure on him – and it showed!" And as for Loeb, he was contemplative. "You cannot win every time. Winning isn't so easy as some people imagine!" The slippery conditions didn't work for Loeb, but a late sprint on the final day netted second