Dani Sordo leads his home event by only 1.6 seconds over team-mate SÃ©bastien Loeb, with Finn Mikko Hirvonen over half a minute behind the CitroÃ«n pair.
Sordo was 4.8s up on Loeb after midday service, but the Frenchman cut the gap on the rerun of the first 3 stages. As much as Sordo would hope to retain the lead come the last stage, team-orders could well ruin his dreams of breaking his duck on home soil.
“It’s a good day for me, Seb is coming really fast but we’ll see tomorrow,” Sordo said afterwards. “This afternoon was more difficult, there was some understeer, but it was okay.”
Loeb on the other hand was only focused on one thing: beating Hirvonen. “We’re still very close to the first place, and the main thing is that it’s not Mikko who is first”
He continued, “I was struggling with the settings in the morning and I was not confident, but in the afternoon the car was perfect.”
At the opposite end of the spectrum were the Ford drivers, dissapointed with their 3rd and 6th positions respectively.
“I had hoped to be closer to the two drivers at the front,” said Hirvonen. “There was a little understeer and it’s difficult to push as hard as you would like in that situation. We’ll take a look at the data and try to resolve that for tomorrow.”
Mikko too was focused on the championship battle, but has already accepted he can’t catch the CitroÃ«ns on pace alone.
“I know that I can’t put pressure on the drivers ahead, but if I can stay close enough to them to be in a position to capitalise if anything happens, then that’s where I need to be.”
Petter Solberg was more optimistic however, and with only 25 seconds seperating him from Hirvonen, a podium finish is still possible.
“It was just the first stage this morning where we lost a lot of time,” he said. “Since then Mikko and I have been very, very close.”
Meanwhile in the JWRC, newly crowned champion Martin Prokop leads, despite having brake issues in the morning loop of stages. He leads fellow CitroÃ«n C2 driver Hans Weijs Jr. who was at a loss to explain how Prokop stole the lead in the afternoon.
“I was slower in stage five, but I'm not really sure why. The car is working well, but he [Prokop] is fast. We have to push again tomorrow.”
Aaron Burkart‘s quest to snatch second in the drivers title has not gone to plan, and is down in 4th place, 8.9 seconds behind local driver Jorge Marti in his underpowered Renault Clio R3. Burkart’s team-mate Simone Bertolotti inherited 5th place late in the day after a puncture for Kevin Abbring cost him nine minutes.
Pos Driver Car Time/Gap 1. Dani Sordo Citroen 1h10m45.3s 2. Sebastien Loeb Citroen + 1.6s 3. Mikko Hirvonen Ford + 34.2s 4. Petter Solberg Citroen + 59.7s 5. Sebastien Ogier Citroen + 1m22.9s 6. Jari-Matti Latvala Ford + 1m36.7s 7. Evgeny Novikov Citroen + 3m11.0s 8. Matthew Wilson Ford + 3m28.8s 9. Federico Villagra Ford + 3m51.9s 10. Henning Solberg Ford + 3m58.7s