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Loeb moves into rally lead

Championship leader Sebastien Loeb has moved into the lead of the Rally Portugal following the first three stages of leg two, the Frenchman setting a trio of fastest times to go 6.9 seconds ahead.

Loeb began the day in 18 seconds behind in third place, but didn't take long to make his move on leader Mikko Hirvonen, the Citroen driver using his better position on the road to win all three of the morning stages.

Although Hirvonen did well not to drop too much time as he swept the road clear for those behind, Loeb's performance on SS9, where he took 15 seconds off his rival, proved to be the crucial moment.

Nonetheless, the Finn remains in contention with Loeb and will benefit from this afternoon's stages being a re-run of those from the morning. However, there is widespread speculation that some tactics could come into play by the end of the day, with many expecting Sunday's four stages to be the toughest of the rally.

Having begun the day as a three-way battle for the lead, a spin for Dani Sordo on SS10 saw him lose 22 seconds and slip more than half a minute off his team-mate.

However, he retains a large margin over Petter Solberg, who has moved up to fourth position following Marcus Gronholm's demise at the start of the day.

The Finn was looking to use his good road position to launch a challenge for the podium, but ran off the road and rolled a short distance into the Santa Clara stage. Although he got going again, the impact had damaged the front of his Subaru Impreza and soaring engine temperatures eventually forced him to stop.

Although Solberg complained that he lost several seconds getting through the dust being kicked up by the stricken Gronholm, he is comfortably positioned in fourth after his closest rival at the start of the day, Sebastien Ogier, was also forced to retire.

The Frenchman had made good ground on the former champion towards the end of day one, but he was forced to stop on the same stage as Gronholm with a bent steering arm and join the growing retirements' list.



Related Pictures

Click on relevant pic to enlarge
Dani Sordo (ESP) Marc Marti (ESP), Citroen C4 Citroën Total World Rally Team
Mikko Hirvonen (FIN) Jarmo Lehtinen(FIN), Ford Focus RS WRC08, BP Ford Abu Dhabi World Rally Team
Sebastien Loeb (FRA) Daniel Elena (MON), Citroën C4, Citroën Total World Rally Team
Thierry Neuville, Hyundai Motorsport, Rally Poland [Credit: Hyundai]
Thierry Neuville, Hyundai Motorsport, Rally Poland [Credit: Hyundai]
Thierry Neuville, Hyundai Motorsport, Rally Poland [Credit: Hyundai]
Thierry Neuville, Hyundai Motorsport, Rally Poland [Credit: Hyundai]
Craig Breen (IRL) - Scott Martin (GBR) - Citroen C3 WRC, Citroen Total Abu Dhabi Wrt
Craig Breen (IRL) - Scott Martin (GBR) - Citroen C3 WRC, Citroen Total Abu Dhabi Wrt
Yazzed Al Rajhi (SAU) - Michael Orr (GBR) - Ford Fiesta RS WRC, Yazeed Racing
Yazzed Al Rajhi (SAU) - Michael Orr (GBR) - Ford Fiesta RS WRC, Yazeed Racing
Yazzed Al Rajhi (SAU) - Michael Orr (GBR) - Ford Fiesta RS WRC, Yazeed Racing
Yazzed Al Rajhi (SAU) - Michael Orr (GBR) - Ford Fiesta RS WRC, Yazeed Racing
Yazzed Al Rajhi (SAU) - Michael Orr (GBR) - Ford Fiesta RS WRC, Yazeed Racing
Yazzed Al Rajhi (SAU) - Michael Orr (GBR) - Ford Fiesta RS WRC, Yazeed Racing
Yazzed Al Rajhi (SAU) - Michael Orr (GBR) - Ford Fiesta RS WRC, Yazeed Racing
Yazzed Al Rajhi (SAU) - Michael Orr (GBR) - Ford Fiesta RS WRC, Yazeed Racing
Yazzed Al Rajhi (SAU) - Michael Orr (GBR) - Ford Fiesta RS WRC, Yazeed Racing

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