BP Ford Abu Dhabi World Rally Team number two driver Jari-Matti Latvala leads the Rally Finland at the conclusion of the second day.

Latvala, who was third fastest last night in the short opening test, finished the morning loop in second, just 1.3 seconds off Petter Solberg.

He then put in a charge this afternoon, cutting the deficit to just 0.1 seconds in SS6, before moving into P1 in SS7. Latvala then consolidated his advantage over the four remaining stages, increasing his advantage from 2.7 seconds post-SS7 to 9.1 seconds following the repeat-run through the short 4.19 km Laajavuori forest test.

"It's a dream to be in this position," said Latvala, who posted three quickest stage times this afternoon. "When I arrived in the service park tonight the grandstands were full and all the fans cheered and applauded me. That gave me a real boost.

"It's too early to think about winning though, I'm just concentrating on one stage at a time. I need a perfect day tomorrow. I want to find a good balance with my driving and keep a cool head."

Solberg meanwhile ended proceedings having been unable to match Latvala in all the 'proper' tests this afternoon. However it was still a great showing from the Norwegian, especially as he is competing in a privately entered Citroen C4 WRC. He also managed to win the final stage to repeat what he did last night in Laajavuori.

"I'm very happy," said Petter. "Second in the classification and fastest Citroen is actually better than I expected. I didn't push too much, it was much more important to stay on the road and not get any punctures.

"I did lose some time at the Myhinpaa stage [SS8 and SS10], as I didn't do that stage last year, and it is a really tricky stage, but that was expected. I know I can be much faster, and will push a lot more on tomorrow's stages, not only to keep the others behind, but to chase Latvala also."

Sebastien Ogier completes the top three, the Frenchman having got in front of fellow Citroen man Dani Sordo in SS7.

Sordo also lost out to Sebastien Loeb two stages later, and thus finished the day 11.7 seconds back in fifth.

"I had some problems with my pace notes this afternoon," Sordo explained. "You need 100 per cent confidence to go quickly in Finland and that wasn't the case for me then. I lost a few seconds but we are still in the running. We're going to work hard with our stage videos tonight in order to push hard again tomorrow!"

Loeb in contrast was happier with his car this afternoon and with it repaired after he damaged his front spoiler on the first loop, the record-breaking WRC champion was right on the pace, topping the times in SS8 and SS10.

"It wasn't an easy day!" Loeb admitted. "The others are motoring very quickly and I lost a bit of time here and there. I don't really know to what extent I was handicapped by being first out on the road today. We're starting fourth tomorrow and we'll see if that changes anything. I'm going to continue to push, but winning looks a bit problematic given Jari-Matti Latvala's lead."

Britain's Matthew Wilson completes the top six, albeit a long way off Sordo in P5 - almost two minutes back.

"The car felt totally different this afternoon compared to this morning - the rear end was sliding a lot which made it more difficult to control," Wilson noted. "The narrow sections in the trees are very difficult - a mistake could be fatal so I was taking it careful in those areas.

"Pace notes are so important in this rally - I've just really got to trust every single detail. We got caught in some heavy rain towards the end of SS8 which made the stage slippery and we hit a front right wing on SS10 towards the end of the stage so I took everything very cautiously after that. But we've had no major problems today and I'm happy with my overall position."

Further down the order, four-time WRC champion, Juha Kankkunen showed he still has what it takes, even though he hasn't competed in the World Rally Championship since 2002. The 51-year-old put in some good times and his best efforts were two sevenths quickest times in SS8 and SS10.

"I've has no major problems today, I am just enjoying the rally," said Kankkunen. "The handling and the suspension of the WRC is really nice but sometimes I feel like I'm waiting for the power to come with these modern cars.

"In fact, braking is the most difficult thing to learn - the WRC brakes are just so efficient. I took everything quite carefully on SS6 but it was my home stage and I enjoyed every minute. The whole stage was packed with spectators so it was a very nice stage to drive. We had some rain on SS7 which made everything very slippery but I managed to deal with everything fine. I'm pleased with how everything is going."

F1 2007 world champion, Kimi Raikkonen rounded out the top eight in his Citroen, 7.5 seconds off Kankkunen. Raikkonen had been ahead of the WRC legend until he slipped back in SS8.

"This is not an easy one," said the former Ferrari and McLaren F1 driver. "The whole day has been difficult. We changed the car a bit and now it feels a bit better. Perhaps it will be better for tomorrow."

Of the rest, Juho Hanninen and Matti Rantanen are ninth and tenth, with Mads Ostberg eleventh and P-G Andersson twelfth. Hanninen incidentally leads the SWRC class from Rantanen - 41.1 seconds ahead.

In the PWRC, Ott Tanak moved up into the class lead, when early pace setter Juha Salo crashed out in SS7. Salo was one of a number of drivers that had offs, with other casualties including, most notably, Mikko Hirvonen and Henning Solberg.

Hirvonen was the big name to go out today, crashing in SS4, when he rolled his Focus RS WRC car multiple times. The Finn escaped unharmed, as did his co-driver, Jarmo Lehtinen. The car was badly damaged however, and he will not re-start on Saturday. Hirvonen had been leading by 4.9 seconds prior to his scary accident.

"The section at which I crashed is my favourite corner on any stage, anywhere in the world," said Hirvonen. "It happened at a fast right corner which led into a jump. I landed after the jump in the perfect place on the road but the car pulled left and started rolling. I was surprised the landing pulled the car across the road so violently. It happened so fast that I had no time to react.

"It was my biggest accident ever. I'm so disappointed because this is my home town rally and I had the speed to win. The car is too badly damaged to continue, but my young sons are here and want to watch the rally cars, so I will spend tomorrow spectating with them."

Fellow Ford man Henning survived longer, until he also went out. He had been running fifth and battling with Loeb until his error in SS8. He will not be able to re-join either as his off damaged the roll cage.

"I was really starting to enjoy myself until we had to retire - the car set up was working very well. I was getting very close to catching up on my brother [Petter Solberg] in the last two stages before I crashed so it is very frustrating," Henning added.

"But I did try my best and I am pleased that I had got into the top five before I had to retire - just like Mikko, I was very unlucky. The smallest mistake can prove fatal. I will try not to reflect on the accident too much and just aim for a good result in Germany next month when I will return to drive the [Ford Fiesta] S2000."

The Rally Finland now concludes on Saturday, with eight stages on the bill and over 162 competitive kilometres. SS12, the 10.35 km run through Kolonkulma, starts at 07.33 hours local time.

Rally Finland: Overall standings after Stage 11 / Day 1 (Top 10):

1. Jari-Matti Latvala BP Ford Abu Dhabi Focus RS WRC 1hour 10mins 30.7secs M
2. Petter Solberg PSWRT Citroen C4 WRC +00mins 09.1secs A8
3. Sebastien Ogier Citroen Total WRT C4 WRC +00mins 21.8secs M
4. Sebastien Loeb Citroen Total WRT C4 WRC +00mins 32.0secs M
5. Dani Sordo Citroen Junior Team C4 WRC +00mins 43.7secs M
6. Matthew Wilson Stobart VK Ford Focus WRC +02mins 35.3secs M
7. Juha Kankkunen Stobart VK Ford Focus WRC +03mins 10.7secs A8
8. Kimi Raikkonen Citroen Junior Team C4 WRC +03mins 18.2secs M
9. Juho Hanninen Skoda Fabia S2000 +03mins 44.3secs S
10. Matti Rantanen Skoda Fabia S2000 +04mins 25.4secs S


11. Mads Ostberg Adapta Subaru Impreza WRC +04mins 31.2secs A8
12. P-G Andersson Skoda Fabia S2000 +04mins 38.4secs S

SWRC Standings after Stage 11 / Day 1 (Top 3):

1. Juho Hanninen Skoda Fabia S2000 1hour 14mins 15.0secs S
2. Matti Rantanen Skoda Fabia S2000 +00mins 41.1secs S
3. P-G Andersson Skoda Fabia S2000 +00mins 54.1secs S

PWRC Standings after Stage 11 / Day 1 (Top 3):

1. Ott Tanak Mitsubishi Lancer Evo X 1hr 17mins 06.9secs P
2. Patrik Flodin Subaru Impreza STi +01mins 33.0secs P
3. Hayden Paddon Mitsubishi Lancer Evo X +01mins 33.7secs P

Notable retirements:

SS4. Mikko Hirvonen BP Ford Abu Dhabi Focus RS WRC Crashed. M
SS6. Khalid Al-Qassimi BP Ford Abu Dhabi Focus RS WRC Went off A8
SS8. Henning Solberg Stobart VK Ford Focus WRC Went off. M

all times unofficial