Citroen Junior Team's Sebastien Ogier managed to increase his lead on the Rally of Turkey by 2.7 seconds following the short Istanbul SSS this evening.
Ogier took the lead on the third stage this morning and while he tried to gain some ground this afternoon and was fastest in SS5 and SS6, Dani Sordo came back at him on the following two tests.
Heading to SS9 only 2.8 seconds separated the two Citroen men, however, Ogier managed to gain a bit more time in the 2.2 kilometre super special and will now start the final leg 5.5 seconds ahead.
Mikko Hirvonen meanwhile also lost a few seconds in the SSS, but he remains third and is optimistic he can fight for the win.
"I had a good day and I'm happy with my placing. I'm unsure what will be the best position in the start order tomorrow because I don't know if the early cars will sweep away the gravel, but third is certainly okay if they do. Anything is possible with such small time gaps between the leaders," said the Ford man.
Petter Solberg and Sebastien Loeb complete the top five, the latter taking his first stage win of the event in the SSS.
Further down the order, Jari-Matti Latvala is sixth followed by Federico Villagra, Kimi Raikkonen, Matt Wilson and Ott Tanek.
"I dropped more time than I hoped today but it means that I have a good start position for tomorrow, although it's difficult to say how much the roads will clean," Latvala stated.
"Tomorrow will be tough. Most stages have both asphalt and gravel roads which will make it hard to find a good rhythm. Temperatures were warmer today then we expected and if it's the same tomorrow it will be demanding for the tyres. Anyone who pushes too hard on the abrasive asphalt could damage their tyres for the gravel and lose grip. I will need to be clever and not push all the time."
The action now continues on Saturday with eight stages on the bill. Day two is the longest leg of the event, with around 145 competitive kilometres. SS10, Gocbeyli 1 [18.17 km], starts at 09.56 hours local time [07.56 hours UK time].
Overall standings after Stage 9 / Day 1 (Top 10):
1. Sebastien Ogier
Citroen Junior Team C4 WRC 55mins 32.7secs
2. Dani Sordo
Citroen Total WRT C4 WRC +00mins 5.5secs
3. Mikko Hirvonen
BP Ford Abu Dhabi Focus RS WRC +00mins 12.2secs
4. Petter Solberg
PSWRT Citroen C4 WRC +00mins 18.5secs
5. Sebastien Loeb
Citroen Total WRT C4 WRC +00mins 24.9secs
6. Jari-Matti Latvala
BP Ford Abu Dhabi Focus RS WRC +00mins 27.5secs
7. Federico Villagra
Munchi's Ford Focus WRC +01mins 42.9secs
8. Kimi Raikkonen
Citroen Junior Team C4 WRC +02mins 04.6secs
9. Matthew Wilson
Stobart VK Ford Focus WRC +01mins 57.6secs
10. Ott Tanak
Mitsubishi Lancer Evo X +04mins 59.1secs
JWRC Standings after Stage 9 / Day 1 (Top 3):
1. Aaron Burkart
Suzuki Swift S1600 1 hour 02mins 08.9secs
2. Thierry Neuville
Citroen C2 S1600 +00mins 07.5secs
3. Kevin Abbring
Renault Clio R3 +00mins 13.8secs
SS1. Henning Solberg
Stobart VK Ford Focus WRC Broken steering
SS1. Ken Block
Monster WRT Ford Focus WRC Broken steering
* denotes expected to re-start on day 2 under SupeRally.
all times unofficial