Citroen Junior Team's Sebastien Ogier leads Rally New Zealand at the end of the second day, however, it was Sebastien Loeb that starred and he now lies perfectly placed to seize top spot on the final leg.

From his overnight starting position of seventh, Loeb drove devastatingly fast through Saturday's eight special stages, averaging at least one second per kilometre better than any other driver during the day's 155.62 competitive kilometres.

Loeb took six stage victories in his Citroen C4 WRC and cut the overnight deficit from 1m 19s to end the day a scant 5.3 seconds adrift of P1.

The six-time world champion rated it his best performance yet: "I think this was my greatest rally day. It was incredible," Loeb confirmed. "We drove today flat-out everywhere and in every stage. We pushed hard all day and had some very, very good times and now we are second. I knew with my road position I could take time, so overall today was not so bad."

Ogier was also happy despite not being able to match Loeb's pace. "Today was very good. Our car was very strong, and we are still in the lead," said the former Junior World Rally champion.

Overnight leader Petter Solberg meanwhile remains confident of a podium position in his privately-entered Citroen C4 WRC car after spending the day at the top of the running order, ahead of BP Ford's Jari-Matti Latvala and Ogier.

"I am 'on it', I can tell you! I am using all of the road and then more! I am going to keep trying to get the times as best as I can, so I will try my hardest and see how it goes," said Solberg, who is fifth, 53.6 seconds behind Ogier, but like Loeb today, has the advantage of a better-swept road for the rally's final four stages in Raglan.

Latvala holds third place going into the rally's final day, 33.2 seconds behind Loeb while Loeb's Citroen works team-mate Dani Sordo is fourth.

"The roads were more difficult to drive than I expected," Latvala said. "They were much more slippery. When we made the recce the surface was damp, but today it was totally dry and the grip was different. My weakness came on the middle stage of each loop because my pace notes weren't precise enough and I lost time. I opted to take two spare tyres this afternoon because I was concerned about tyre wear but it was a mistake. The extra weight meant the rear of the car didn't handle so well.

"I have been happy to be third in the running order tomorrow and 15sec from the lead, but I think 30sec is too much to take back. My priority is to hold onto third and anything else will be a bonus. Tomorrow's stages are notoriously demanding so I don't want to risk what I have," he added.

Ford's other works driver Mikko Hirvonen meanwhile also found it tough and is sixth, 30 seconds off his team-mate - and 6.6 seconds off Solberg. "I tried so hard but I just can't go any faster. I made a mistake this morning but after that I drove well and really enjoyed the stages. I'm happier with my driving today and a harder suspension set-up was better, but the times just weren't there. It has been a long time since I've been happy with my driving yet found myself in sixth," stated the 29-year-old.

Further down the order, Britain's Matthew Wilson is seventh, two minutes off sixth, while his Stobart Ford team-mate, Henning Solberg, lies eighth, 2.5 minutes further back.

Jari Ketomaa and Federico Villagra round out the top ten, the former incidentally also on course for victory in the S2000 category in his Ford Fiesta S2000. "It was a very, very good day. The morning didn't start so well, but we went well through the Te Akau stage [one of the event's longest] and got better this afternoon," said Ketomaa.

In the PWRC two-time New Zealand champion Hayden Paddon leads, 3 minutes 36.9 seconds up on Emma Gilmour. Paddon is 15th overall and the best-placed local competitor in his Mitsubishi Lancer Evo IX.

The event now concludes on Sunday with two stages near Raglan on the bill, both run twice. The final day is the shortest of the event and features around 82 competitive kilometres, with SS18, the 11.18 km Te Hutewai 1 test, due to start at 08.38 hours local time.

Overall standings after Stage SS17 / Day 2 (Top 10):

1. Sebastien Ogier Citroen Junior Team C4 WRC 3hours 05mins 40.4secs M
2. Sebastien Loeb Citroen Total WRT C4 WRC +00mins 05.3secs M
3. Jari-Matti Latvala BP Ford Abu Dhabi Focus RS WRC +00mins 33.2secs M
4. Dani Sordo Citroen Total WRT C4 WRC +00mins 47.5secs M
5. Petter Solberg PSWRT Citroen C4 WRC +00mins 53.6secs A8
6. Mikko Hirvonen BP Ford Abu Dhabi Focus RS WRC +01mins 00.2secs M
7. Matthew Wilson Stobart VK Ford Focus WRC +03mins 04.9secs M
8. Henning Solberg Stobart VK Ford Focus WRC +05mins 41.4secs M
9. Jari Ketomaa Ford Fiesta S2000 +08mins 12.7secs S
10. Federico Villagra Munchi's Ford Focus WRC +08mins 28.8secs M

SWRC Standings after Stage SS17 / Day 2 (Top 3):

1. Jari Ketomaa Ford Fiesta S2000 3hours 13mins 53.1secs S
2. Xevi Pons Ford Fiesta S2000 +01min 09.4secs S
3. Martin Prokop Ford Fiesta S2000 +01min 42.5secs S

PWRC Standings after Stage SS17 / Day 2 (Top 3):

1. Hayden Paddon Mitsubishi Lancer Evo IX 3hours 17mins 30.6secs P
2. Emma Gilmour Subaru Impreza WRX STi +03mins 36.9secs P
3. Kingsley Thompson Mitsubishi Lancer Evo IX +07mins 52.5secs P

all times unofficial