Malcolm Wilson, the BP Ford Abu Dhabi team principal, was left to rue their choice of tyres on day two of Rally Bulgaria as Sebastien Loeb continued his domination of the event. Loeb, winner of the past 15 all-asphalt World Rally Championship (WRC) events, increased his lead in Bulgaria yesterday by winning the first of the day's five stages and placing second in the rest.
Going into the final day, the Frenchman, who won all the four stages on Friday, has a 40.5-second lead over Daniel Sordo, his Citroen teammate, while Petter Solberg, who won three of the stages yesterday in his privately-entered Citroen, is a further 4.7 seconds behind. Sebastien Ogier is in fourth, 2mins 5.7secs off the lead in his Citroen, followed by the two Team Abu Dhabi drivers, Mikko Hirvonen (2mins 50.4secs) and Jari-Matti Latvala (3mins 33.1secs).
Wilson believes the decision to send his drivers out on hard-compound tyres in the morning had ruined their chances of catching the leaders. The Citroens used soft-compound tyres. "We could see [on the first day] on some of the data that when it was a little bit damp or slippery we could be competitive," Wilson told the WRC website yesterday. "But we've thrown that opportunity away this morning when we had a chance. We've paid heavily for this mistake.
"It's a disaster, that's for sure. We're using the same weather system as we've used on previous events and unfortunately they didn't pick up the localised rain." He added: "We weren't supplied with the right info and we made the choice based on the information we had. There's no question that there has been a big, big mistake. We've thrown away basically any chance of trying to improve our positions."
Loeb was pleased with his performance, opting for soft tyres right through the day in anticipation of rains that never materialised. "It was a good morning," the six-time world champions and championship leader told Reuters. "There were no mistakes at all. But in the second stage I was thinking a little more to the safety and I lost my rhythm." * Compiled by Ahmed Rizvi, with agencies