Citroen team leader Sebastien Loeb has extended his lead on the Rallye Deutschland this morning, despite a 'scare' on the 14.22 kilometre Birkenfelder Land 1 test.

Loeb, who started the day with a 19.9 second lead, after having won all six stages on day 1, was immediately on it again and he completed SS7 in 10 minutes 50.1 seconds, 0.3 seconds up on his team-mate Dani Sordo.

Loeb was then quickest again in SS8, 3.5 seconds up on his closest rival, before topping the times in SS9, where he 'almost' went off near the finish. Seb continued to push in SS10 however, the long run through the daunting Baumholder military training area, and he finished the loop having increased his advantage to 35.9 seconds.

"The day could hardly have got off to a better start. The conditions were entirely dry again, and I think the soft Pirelli tyres for the three Saarland stages - SS7, SS8 and SS9 - was the right call," said the Frenchman. "We then switched to the harder option for the concrete and paving of SS10 through the Baumholder military camp [after the RSZ] and that, too, paid off.

"We have succeeded in meeting the objective we set ourselves this morning, which was to extend our lead even further before returning to Trier for service. We still had to push hard, though.

"However, like yesterday, I had an excellent feeling with my car over all four stages, although we did have one scary moment about a kilometre before the end of SS9 when we came across a hay-bail chicane that had been put in a different place compared with recce. The spot was on a fast section and came just after a blind crest. It was a very close thing and I was fortunate to escape with just a scratched front right wing!"

Dani Sordo meanwhile is now second in the #2 Citroen C4 WRC, having overhauled Mikko Hirvonen in the first test of the day. The Spaniard was second best in three of the four tests and has a 14.4 second cushion over the Ford man.

"I have reverted to the set-up we chose after pre-event testing and my C4 performed superbly," said Dani. "I felt much more confident in my driving and our times have improved. We recovered second place after SS7 and we then set about consolidating our position.

"I think I would have preferred slightly harder tyres, but the soft option was the best choice first thing this morning. The decision to switch to the harder Pirellis for the morning's final stage was also the right move given how long it was, and how aggressive its surface was. We pulled out a useful gap on that one to end the first part of the second leg on a high note."

Hirvonen was disappointed to have slipped back and said that he just didn't feel entirely comfortable with his Focus: "I didn't have any rhythm and made many small mistakes," he noted. "I didn't trust my pace notes first time through the stages so I was too cautious and that's where I lost time. If there was a cut at a corner, I seemed to back off to see how slippery it was. I need to be braver and I didn't have the confidence to drive flat out like yesterday.

"I'm sure this afternoon will be better. I changed the settings after the second stage to make the car softer at the front and that was progress, but maybe hard compound tyres would have been better because I didn't have the precision I hoped for."

Further down the order Francois Duval lies fourth and while the Belgian was right on it in the Saarland stages, he could only post the sixth best effort in Panzerplatte after ripping off the bumper. He is now almost 30 seconds off P3.

"I'm very happy with my time on the third stage this morning it was a completely new stage for everyone which was to my advantage I think. The feeling is starting to come now and I'm much happier than yesterday. The bumper came off in Panzerplatte on a sharp dip in the road which affected the cooling system so the engine temperature went up and we had to back off in some places to keep an eye on the temperature," he recalled.

Petter Solberg and Chris Atkinson round out the top six, and there was little to choose between the two Subaru men in the loop.

"Chris and I are driving almost exactly the same speed this morning so I think we're both driving well," 'Hollywood' reflected. "It's not so bad, we're doing what we can but the stages are slippery and it's easy to make a mistake so when you're a little down on confidence in the car on tarmac it really shows in the times.

"We were on the soft tyres this morning, and then the hard tyres for the long stage after the remote service. It's working ok for us so I'm quite happy with the decision. No problems, and we're just doing what we can at the moment."

"We had a steady run through the stages this morning, not really trying to make up any ground but just making sure we stay ahead of the guys behind," added Atkinson. "We're being a little bit cautious this morning, but still driving hard as we can't afford to back off too much. The roads had a lot of grass on them this morning and they seem more overgrown than last year."

Stobart Ford's Henning Solberg and Citroen semi-privateer Urmo Aava complete the provisional points' scorers, the latter still only 13 seconds off P7 in his PH Sport-run C4 WRC, despite hitting a tree in SS7 and knocking off the rear spoiler.

Suzuki's Toni Gardemeister and BP Ford Abu Dhabi's Jari-Matti Latvala finished the loop ninth and tenth - and Jari was the morning's big loser. He had been running fifth overall until he crashed in SS9. That error cost him around 90 seconds and he then incurred a 30 second penalty for being late into the remote service zone before SS10.

"I had a slight error in my pace notes about 3km from the finish and I came over a crest, flat out in fifth gear, into a chicane sooner than I expected," said the Finn. "I was going too fast and tried to avoid the bales by going into a field alongside the road. There was a ditch between the road and the field and the car jumped and I rolled lightly into the field. It was stuck and I had to wait for people to push me out."

Of the rest Andreas Mikkelsen and Matthew Wilson are eleventh and twelfth respectively, while Conrad Rautenbach, Khalid Al Qassimi and Erik Wever are 13th, 14th and 15th.

In the Junior World Rally Championship category, Sebastien Ogier took over at the top in SS8 and he now has a very comfortable lead after overnight leader Martin Prokop was forced out in SS9 with an alternator problem. Aaron Burkart is second in the J-WRC, almost 3 minutes off Ogier, while Alessandro Bettega is third, 20 seconds or so further back.

The action now resumes at 14.57 hours local time, when all four of this morning's tests will be repeated to conclude the second leg.


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