Jari-Matti Latvala has retained his lead following the morning loop of day two on Rally d'Italia Sardinia, with the disadvantage of running first on the road not appearing as apparent as expected.
The BP Ford Abu Dhabi driver went into the second day leading team-mate Mikko Hirvonen by just under 40 seconds, but was able to minimise his losses through the three morning stages – including the first run through the longest test of the event – to head back to service with a lead of 27 seconds.
"I drove as well as I could in those conditions and was expecting to lose more time," he said. "My confidence is good and I think I need to take a 20-25sec lead into tomorrow if I am to have a chance to win.
“The last two stages had a shiny surface and were extremely slippery. It was hard to judge the right braking points. This afternoon should be better, but it will still be more difficult for me than for the guys behind."
Having admitted he had made a mistake in not slowing enough on the final stage of day one, thus moving ahead of Sebastien Loeb in the standings, Hirvonen was quickest through the first stage of the morning to extend his advantage over Loeb but then saw the Frenchman go quickest on both SS8 and SS9. Hirvonen's challenge wasn't helped by the fact that he encountered two groups of wild horses on stage eight – forcing him to slow.
Loeb's stage times should have seen him move into second place, but he was a minute late starting the final stage of the morning after stopping to bleed the brakes on his C4 WRC. As a result, he picked up a ten second penalty and remains third – 7.5secs behind Hirvonen going into the afternoon loop.
“We had a brake problem at the end of the second stage and had to bleed the brakes, so we were a little late checking in to stage nine,” he said. “I intend to keep pushing this afternoon and we'll see what we can do.”
Petter Solberg remains fourth but has dropped back from the top three after a couple of minor spins as he pushed to try and stay in contention, and the Norwegian driver will now face pressure during the afternoon from Dani Sordo, who climbed up to fifth from his overnight eighth position through the three stages.
Mads Ostberg lies sixth, despite damaging his suspension on the final stage of the morning, while Evgeny Novikov slipped back down the order to seventh after going briefly off the road in stage eight. Henning Solberg completes the top eight, although he too lost time during the morning stages after he was forced to do most of stage nine on three wheels after damaging the right rear rim after contact with something on the road early on.