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Last Updated: Saturday, 27 October 2007, 14:33 GMT 15:33 UK
Loeb crash damages title chances
Sebastien Loeb
Loeb has two races left to overtake Gronholm in the standings
Sebastien Loeb blamed an error by co-driver Daniel Elana for costing him the chance to make up ground on Marcus Gronholm at the Rally of Japan.

The triple world champion crashed out when he lost control of his Citroen on stage 13 and ended up in a ditch.

Loeb said: "The fatal corner was noted as minus-minus and he (Elana) announced plus-plus, meaning I took it more or less 30kph faster than I should have."

Gronholm, who has a four-point lead in the title race, bowed out on Friday.

He slid his Ford down a bank on stage three before crashing into a tree stump.

The fatal corner was noted as minus-minus and he announced plus-plus, meaning I took it more or less 30kph faster than I should have done

Sebastien Loeb

Meanwhile, fellow Finn Mikko Hirvonen will take a 38.2-second lead into the final day after cementing his advantage in his Ford.

Spain's Daniel Sordo is second in a Citroen, with Norway's Henning Solberg, also in a Ford, in third place, more than a minute further back.

Loeb tried to continue after his accident but soon gave up.

"With no spectators around, we had no chance to put it back on the track. Game over," said the Frenchman.

"The off was really bad luck. I was not attacking at all and I didn't want to catch Hirvonen.

"But I can't blame Daniel too much. It's the only pace note mistake he's made in more than 10 years together."

Elana, to his credit, took full responsibility for his error.

Hirvonen in action on day two
Hirvonen leads by 38.2 seconds
"It was my fault - 100%," he said. "Sometimes you think blue and you say green, as simple as that. I had the correct pace note written down, I read it properly and announced it wrong.

"I still don't know why. Traces of jet lag? Having my brain disconnected for one tenth of a second was enough to end in disaster.

"I feel really sorry and I thanked Sebastien and the whole team deeply for not blaming me too much afterwards."

Finn Jari-Matti Latvala also crashed on Saturday after his Ford had suffered gearbox trouble earlier in the second leg.

As for Hirvonen, he is refusing to take victory for granted.

"I don't want to start thinking we've won the rally," he said. "We need to try to keep everything together and keep the car on the road."

606: DEBATE
WK

Japan's northern island of Hokkaido escaped the typhoon battering large parts of the country, but it has still been wet enough to make the going treacherous for the drivers.

Loeb had reduced the gap in the championship race to four points with back-to-back wins in Catalunya and Corsica.

The Rally Japan is the 14th of 16 races in the World Rally Championship.

Gronholm leads the standings with 104 points, four points ahead of Loeb, who won this event last year.



SEE ALSO
Gronholm crash boosts Loeb hopes
26 Oct 07 |  Rallying
French win lifts Loeb title hopes
14 Oct 07 |  Rallying
Loeb storms to Catalunya triumph
07 Oct 07 |  Rallying


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