Citroen number one driver Sebastien Loeb won two out of the three stages this morning on day two of the Rallye Deutschland to ensure he remains at the head of the pack.
Loeb, who finished the opening leg with a 9.5 second cushion, was quickest in the opening test today. However, team-mate Dani Sordo was only 0.5 seconds slower in the sister Citroen C4 WRC, and the Spaniard then went quickest in SS8, taking back 2.7 seconds.
Loeb respond immediately though, and took his sixth quickest time of the event in SS9, to re-asset his authority and head into the 15 minute remote service zone at Birkenfeld with a 10.8 second advantage.
"This was a great start to a long day," Loeb said. "I was driving cautiously [in the first test] - perhaps a bit too cautiously towards the end. SS8 was great with many spectators. I am satisfied as I found my rhythm right away. Dani is very fast though and there are no team orders, so I can fight hard and go very fast too."
Sordo added: "I pushed really hard in the second stage. My start was not really perfect as the wheels spun on the loose surface. However I was 2.7 seconds faster than Seb. Then he took some cuts in SS9 which I didn't have in my notes, so he was quicker [and took back 3.5 seconds]."
BP Ford Abu Dhabi WRT's Jari-Matti Latvala meanwhile remains 'best of the rest' in his Focus RS WRC car, and while he conceded more time to Loeb and Sordo – who are in a class of their own - he did enough to stay ahead of Sebastien Ogier, increasing the margin from 6.2 seconds last night to 7.7 seconds post-SS9.
Further down the order, Mikko Hirvonen is fifth, 10.8 seconds off the battle for the final spot on the podium, followed by WRC returnee and Stobart Ford man, Francois Duval. The Belgian lost time with a driveshaft failure and engine issues on day one and consequently is a long way off P5, almost 2 minutes adrift.
Britain's Matthew Wilson remains seventh, and while he slipped behind F1 2007 world champion, Kimi Raikkonen in SS8, he got back in front in SS9, when the Citroen Junior Team man went off into a field in a tight-right hander. The two are now separated by 10.2 seconds.
Of the rest, Petter Solberg lies ninth in his privately entered Citroen C4 WRC after two punctures on day one, with Monster WRT man Ken Block rounding out the top ten.
In the support categories, P-G Andersson has taken over the lead in the SWRC, although he is only 0.6 seconds up on Martin Prokop. There was no change at the top in the PWRC or the JWRC, with Armindo Araujo and Hans Weijs Jr both still in P1 respectively in those two classes.
The action now continues at 10.30 hours local time with SS10, the first pass through the daunting 48 km Panzerplatte test - the longest stage of the season where a mixture of surfaces will test drivers to the maximum. After that competitors return to Trier for the mid-day halt.
Rallye Deutschland: Overall standings after Stage 9 (Top 10):
1. Sebastien Loeb
Citroen Total WRT C4 WRC 1hour 44mins 12.7secs
2. Dani Sordo
Citroen Total WRT C4 WRC +00mins 10.8secs
3. Jari-Matti Latvala
BP Ford Abu Dhabi Focus RS WRC +01mins 28.8secs
4. Sebastien Ogier
Citroen Junior Team C4 WRC +01mins 36.5secs
5. Mikko Hirvonen
BP Ford Abu Dhabi Focus RS WRC +01mins 47.3secs
6. Francois Duval
Stobart M-Sport Ford Focus WRC +03mins 38.5secs
7. Matthew Wilson
Stobart M-Sport Ford Focus WRC +04mins 27.1secs
8. Kimi Raikkonen
Citroen Junior Team C4 WRC +04mins 37.3secs
9. Petter Solberg
PSWRT Citroen C4 WRC +05mins 09.5secs
10. Ken Block
Monster WRT Ford Focus RS WRC +07mins 29.8secs
SWRC Standings after Stage 9 (Top 3):
1. P-G Andersson
Skoda Fabia S2000 1hour 52mins 53.4secs
2. Martin Prokop
Ford Fiesta S2000 +00mins 00.6secs
3. Patrik Sandell
Skoda Fabia S2000 +00mins 10.5secs
PWRC Standings after Stage 9 (Top 3):
1. Armindo Araujo
Mitsubishi Lancer Evo X 1hour 56mins 35.5secs
2. Hayden Paddon
Mitsubishi Lancer Evo X +00mins 26.1secs
3. Patrik Flodin
Subaru Impreza STi +00mins 37.0secs
JWRC Standings after Stage 9 (Top 3):
1. Hans Weijs Jr
Citroen C2 S1600 1hour 56mins 14.2secs
2. Aaron Burkart
Suzuki Swift S1600 +03mins 20.6secs
3. Mathieu Arzeno
Citroen C2 S1600 +05mins 20.5secs
SS2. Henning Solberg
Stobart M-Sport Ford Fiesta S2000 Mechanical
* denotes able/elected to re-start under the SupeRally format.
all times unofficial