Rally of Spain leader Mads Ostberg has no expectation of being able to beat Sebastien Loeb to victory in the World Rally Championship season finale, despite starting leg two in Spain with a 27-second cushion over the champion.
A superb performance by Ostberg on Friday's rain-hit gravel stages gave the Adapta Ford driver an early advantage, but the rest of the rally runs on asphalt - a surface on which Loeb has been near unbeatable for the last eight years.
Ostberg is also very conscious that he is on the brink of beating the factory Ford drivers to third in the championship. He holds a four-point advantage over Jari-Matti Latvala, who is currently 49s off the lead in third in Spain, and is 13 clear of Petter Solberg, who retired from leg one with damaged suspension.
Asked if he thought he could resist Loeb's charge on Saturday and Sunday, Ostberg replied: "I don't plan to beat him. That's not why I'm here.
"My focus is on getting third in the championship and that's what I want.
"I will look at Jari-Matti and he is our target for the rest of the weekend. Our goal is all about beating him."
AUTOSPORT understands that securing third in the standings is key to Ostberg's negotiations with teams over 2013 drives. The Norwegian is a leading contender for a Citroen factory seat alongside Mikko Hirvonen, with Dani Sordo's chances of a Citroen return dented by his disappointing recent form. Loeb will only contest a partial 2013 campaign.
Ostberg admitted he was thrilled to be ahead of Loeb - even if it only proves temporary - in the final rally of the nine-time WRC champion's full-time career.
"Loeb is an unbelievable man," said Ostberg. "All that he has achieved over the years is just incredible.
"Today was very good for me. I made no mistakes and the key was to be clean while pushing as hard as we dared.
"But really the next two days will be all about Sebastien."
- Sports & Recreation
- Sebastien Loeb