/ Motorsport

Sebastien Ogier increases advantage in Portugal

Updated: Saturday, 13 Apr 2013 22:47 | Comments

One of Volkswagen's sponsors appears to have given Sebastien Ogier's machine wings
One of Volkswagen's sponsors appears to have given Sebastien Ogier's machine wings

Sebastien Ogier demonstrated his improving health as he stretched his lead of the Rally de Portugal to over half a minute at the end of today's second leg.

The Volkswagen driver came into the fourth race of the season amid serious doubts over his ability to complete the event after being laid low by a virus, but all the signs are he is well on the road to recovery after again impressing at the wheel of his Polo R over some punishing gravel stages today.

The world championship leader won four of today's stages in the hills above the Algarve to move 34 seconds clear of VW team-mate Jari-Matti Latvala, who tasted victory on the day's opening two stages as the German manufacturer stamped its superiority on the race.

Despite the margin of his lead, Ogier is taking nothing for granted heading into tomorrow's final leg, but did reveal that he is finally winning his fitness battle.

"I started to feel a bit better this afternoon," he told wrc.com.

"Physically I've given everything I have but it's going better and better. I'm okay.

"I think I saved my tyres better than the others. It was a good day but tomorrow has two long stages so it's going to be tough as well."

Latvala inherited second place after Ogier's first-day challenger Dani Sordo was forced to retire his Citroen with a damaged rear wheel, and the Finn admitted he was delighted to finally show his true pace at the wheel of the new VW.

"It's the first day this year when I have been smiling," Latvala said.

Latvala's former Ford team-mate Mikko Hirvonen is in third place for Citroen, 68 seconds behind Ogier and far from confident about his hopes of making an impression on the leaders over the final stages.

"It was so rough and so hot that the tyres were at their limit this afternoon," a downbeat Hirvonen said.

"I don't have any new tyres for either of tomorrow's loops so that will slow me."

Evgeny Novikov was running fourth ahead of fellow Fiesta driver Nasser Al-Attiyah, while the VW of Andreas Mikkelsen was in sixth.

Elsewhere, former grand prix driver Robert Kubica continued to experience car troubles on his WRC debut, the Pole's tyre woes of yesterday compounded by hydraulic issues with his Citroen today that forced his second retirement from the event.

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