Sebastien Loeb is on course to win another Rally de Espana after his nearest rival Sebastien Ogier crashed during the second stage of the day.
Loeb extended his lead over Ogier on the opening stage, SS7, before taking a left-hander to quickly and hitting a barrier with the rear of his Citroen C4. The damage caused him to lose 15 minutes, dropping him to 17th overall. “We were keeping up a good pace and our split times were very encouraging,” said the Citroen Junior driver. “Just before the end of the stage, I misunderstood a pace note which said that the corner tightened. I went into the corner too quickly and we hit the guardrail on the outside. The front-right track control arm broke and we had to stop to change it.”
Second place was taken by Petter Solberg, who had got ahead of Jari-Matti Latvala on the first stage of the day. After a poor start to his home rally, Dani Sordo was back on the pace this morning, posting second fastest times in SS8 and SS9 to arrive in midday service just 6.1 seconds behind Latvala in fourth, having moved ahead of Mikko Hirvonen.
In the afternoon loop of stages Loeb extended his lead over Solberg to 44.4 seconds. “It was perfect,” Loeb said. “We went pedal to the metal; we didn't make any mistakes, and we now have a good lead that means we can tackle the third day full of confidence. The final leg will be a real challenge with a 42-km stage to be covered twice.”
Sordo was fastest in SS10, despite being held up by Hirvonen, whose Ford had suffered a turbo problem. The Finn was able to rectify the problem in the road section before the next stage, so continued in fifth.
Sordo took third from Latvala on SS11, and had his sights set on Solberg in second. The Norwegian privateer went fastest on SS12 though to bring the gap back to Sordo up to 16.9 seconds. “It feels extremely good to finish the day in second place,” said Solberg. “I did say yesterday that I was going for second today, so I'm sticking to my plan. I lost some time this morning, but other than that I am very happy with the result. I am really looking forward to having a proper fight with Dani tomorrow, I know he will be pushing, but I will do whatever I can to keep my place.”
Sordo said: “Today's result is obviously a lot more positive than yesterday's. I was really at home in the car and I was able to push hard. We've now got second place lined up and we'll try and catch Petter. I think it's going to be a good scrap!”
Stobart Ford's Matthew Wilson is a lonely sixth ahead of Hungarian Frigyes Turan, with Henning Solberg eighth in his Super 2000 Fiesta. Khalid Al Qassimi is ninth, while Ken Block remains on course to score his first WRC point in tenth, although the American lost several minutes when he went off the road in SS8. Federico Villagra retired after a fanbelt problem caused his engine temperature to rise, while Ogier has climbed up to 14th after his incident this morning.
The battle for the JWRC crown took a twist when Aaron Burkart slid off the road when running third when a wheel came off his Suzuki Swift. This handed the advantage to title rival Hans Weijs, running second behind local driver Yeray Lemes. Burkart will restart under superally rules tomorrow, sixth position in class. Second place will be sufficient for Weijs to win the title unless Burkart can get up to fourth.
Four Spanish stages lie in wait for the drivers on Sunday.