Citroen's Sebastien Loeb remains comfortably in the lead of Rally Bulgaria following the first loop this morning, which was shorter than planned after SS7 was cancelled due to the volume of spectators.
Loeb, who began leg two 28.1 seconds up on Dani Sordo, was quickest through the first test of the day, the 27.46 kilometre Sestrimo 1. Indeed despite the fact conditions were tricky following localised rain, Seb pushed on and was 5.4 seconds faster than his team-mate, who led the chasing pack.
Loeb eased off a bit in the next test, complaining that he didn't have a good rhythm, but even so he was still second, and with Sordo only 3.4 seconds faster, the Frenchman maintained his comfortable lead.
Indeed after organisers had to abandon running the 24.86 kilometre Lyubnitsa test, Loeb returned to the mid-day service with a 30 second cushion, 1.9 seconds better off than he was last night.
"At the moment it is going well," said Loeb. "The feeling is still very good. The stages are quite tricky today, so we have to be a bit careful. But it was okay."
Citroen privateer Petter Solberg meanwhile was unable to stay with Sordo this morning, and he saw the gap to P2 increase from 9.9 seconds 26.8.
Away from the top three, Sebastien Ogier moved up to fourth, getting ahead of BP Ford Abu Dhabi WRT men Mikko Hirvonen and Jari-Matti Latvala after a tyre gamble left them hopelessly off the pace in SS5. Both were over 40 seconds off Ogier in Sestrimo 1, and while the hard tyres weren't such an issue in SS6, the damage had already been done.
"On the information we had from the weather service and our safety crew, hard tyres were the only option," Latvala explained. "Until I reached the start of the first stage the roads were dry, then conditions became damp and I knew it would be difficult in the stage. I made the damper settings softer before the next stage and the driving was easier as a result. It's a pity the last stage was cancelled because it was dry and hot and the roads would have been perfectly suited to our tyres."
BP Ford Abu Dhabi team director Malcolm Wilson added that the tyre choice was based on information provided by an expert weather service in Britain, which provides highly detailed forecasts to the team specific to the rally area.