Sebastien Loeb has moved to within touching distance of victory on the Rally Portugal as he continued to extend his lead on the final morning of competition.

Despite opening out a 26.8secs lead over Mikko Hirvonen with five stages remaining, Loeb had expected his road position to prompt a fight back from the Finn on the opening two stages.

However, despite the rutted terrain and twisty layout, Loeb has instead found himself in an advantageous position, the valley scenery ensuring the dust he is kicking up is lingering in the trees, while the early morning schedule is causing issues with low sun.

It means Loeb was able to capitalise by winning both stages from Hirvonen and eke out his advantage to 31.1secs, the Finn now conceding that he will settle for second unless the championship leader makes an error.

Dani Sordo continues to keep it neat and tidy as he heads for a second podium of the season, while Petter Solberg remains a comfortable fourth, despite problems with his bonnet coming loose on SS15.

Despite taking it relatively easy through SS14 and SS15, Matthew Wilson nonetheless looks safe in fifth position after Stobart team-mate Henning Solberg, who began the day less than a second behind him, hit problems.

Already struggling with the dust ahead, Solberg was further stymied by issues with his windscreen, which even caused him to briefly stop and drop 40 seconds off the battle for a top five finish.

The close fight for seventh between Evgeny Novikov and Mads Ostberg has also come to a premature end after Novikov stopped on SS15 just as he looked poised to snatch the position back from his rival.

His retirement means team-mate Conrad Rautenbach is destined to score the eighth and final point for the Citroen Junior World Rally Team. Sebastien Ogier, in the third C4 meanwhile, has restarted the rally and is showing well with the third best time in SS15.

Elsewhere, Armindo Araujo has backed off in his quest for a famous home win in Production WRC, but the battle for second place is very alive as Martin Prokop rapidly closes on Eyvind Brynildsen.

The Junior WRC win is also Michel Kosciuszko's to lose as he continues to put minutes between himself and second place Kevin Abbring. Hans Weijs is up to third after Luca Griotti rolled.


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