Citroen team principal Olivier Quesnel has praised the improved pace Dani Sordo has shown in this week's Rally Sweden, and put it down to the Spaniard recognizing that his drive could be in jeopardy if Sebastien Ogier keeps improving.
Sordo's pace dropped slightly on this morning's four stages, but he remains ahead of Jari-Matti Latvala's Ford at the midpoint of the event. Quesnel reckons the threat of Citroen Junior Team driver Ogier had focused Sordo like never before on this event.
"I'm not surprised at Sordo," said Quesnel. "He is OK now. For me, you know what happened with Dani last year – at the end of the season he was really fast and this year he is motivated and he knows Ogier is coming and he has to defend his place.
"I know he is fast, but sometimes in his mind he is not strong enough, but this [strength] is coming and when it will be there it will be OK with Dani. It's good for him to be pushed."
Sordo admitted he found this morning's stages more twisty and narrow and dropped time in his battle to win his first World Rally Championship event. Ten seconds off the lead at the end of day one, the number two Citroen C4 WRC was 45sec down after SS13.
"Maybe it's back to normal today," joked Sordo. "No, no, it's the road. I find it harder in the twisty place. But I am still pushing hard. I want to try and stay ahead of Latvala. I had a spin in the final stage this morning, I had to stop and reverse – I lost a lot of time."
Latvala admitted he was finding his position difficult, pointing out that he wanted to push and try to pass Sordo, but at the same time he needed to make the finish of the rally.
"Sordo did a lot of improvements on this surface this year, he's going well," said Latvala. "It's not impossible for me to catch him, but I need to do something nice this afternoon."
By the end of SS13, Latvala had narrowed the gap to Sordo to 10 seconds.