Sebastien Loeb says he is happy to have Mikko Hirvonen ahead of him heading into day two of the Rally Portugal, despite the substantial 18 second gap between them.

The Frenchman lost much of that time on the opening stage of the day after overshooting a corner just a few hundred metres into the stage. With the dusty atmosphere restricting vision, Loeb was forced to wait for it to settle before he could continue.

Dropping just over 20 seconds, two stage wins from six allowed him to break the gap down to 18 seconds, but he is fairly well positioned on the road after team-mate Dani Sordo was able to get between him and Hirvonen.

Running third on the road for day two, Loeb says he would rather be a sizeable distance behind arch-rival Hirvonen, then just ahead of him.

"Apart from the mistake on the first junction, today has been quite okay," he said. "Maybe our suspension was too hard on the second loop, but it wasn't too bad. The road was cleaning a lot and I think it was worse in the afternoon.

"Tomorrow's roads I think will be about the same. I expected some strategy from Mikko at the end but finally he kept his first position. I'd prefer him to be where he is with an 18 second lead, than have him 1 second behind."

Sordo, meanwhile, was frustrated not to be ahead after day one having briefly led the way following the morning stages when Jari-Matti Latvala crashed off.

An identical error to Loeb's on SS5, saw him drop 20 seconds himself and while he pulled back some of the margin with a win on SS6, he remains 15 seconds adrift now. Nonetheless, the Spaniard was pleased with his competitiveness and satisfied not to be first on the road now.

"I'm happy to be here because I'm not first on the road tomorrow!" he said. "This afternoon's loop of stages was harder for me and the car. On the last stage especially my rear tyres were worn, so the car was moving around a lot."

"I don't know what happened, but like Seb I overshot under braking and then had to wait until the dust cleared before I could get going again."

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