Citroen number one driver Sebastien Loeb will go into the final day of Rallye Deutschland with a more than comfortable 35.7 second lead.

Loeb, who has led from the off and who began the day with a 9.5 second cushion, edged ahead this morning in SS7, SS8 and SS9, before doubling his cushion in SS10, the first run through the challenging 48 kilometre Panzerplatte test.

It was a similar story this afternoon on the repeat loop, with Seb maintaining his advantage in SS11, SS12 and SS13, before again pushing in Panzerplatte and gaining another 12 or so seconds.

He now looks odds-on to take his eighth win on this event and maintain a run which stretches right back to 2002, when Rallye Deutschland first joined the World Rally Championship. Germany did not hold a round of the WRC last year.

"It has been a great day," Loeb said. "Dani was pushing us a little bit this morning. But since then we were able to make a difference. This afternoon we didn't take any big risks. We had good speed. It has been perfect.

"Tomorrow I will try to keep my position. I don't have to take any chances. I just have to keep the car on the road and that is what I will try to do."

Dani Sordo meanwhile is on course for the runners-up spot, but while he could stay with Loeb in the Saarland woodland tests, he was no match for the Frenchman on the daunting Baumholder military land, where huge concrete blocks - hinkelsteins - line the edge of the roads.

"The gap between me and Seb is too big for me to push now," Sordo conceded. "I want to remain in second place. It was not a bad day. We started really, really good this morning.

"But after the [first run through] the Panzerplatte test, the long stage of the rally, Sebastien was 12.2 seconds faster. That is quite a big gap and after we drove more to consolidate P2 because a 23 second difference [in total] was too much. Overall I'm pleased. We have fought a little bit with Sebastien here. I tried to beat him and I was close yesterday and this morning."

Sebastien Ogier is next up and on course for the final spot on the podium on his first outing here in a WRC car.

The youngster, who is back competing with the Citroen Junior Team this weekend, got ahead of Jari-Matti Latvala in SS10 after the Finn spun. He had a scare in the final test, but was fortunate and did not lose any time.

"I had a big moment near the end of the last stage," Ogier explained. "But it was okay and I managed to get back on the road. Now I want to stay on the podium, although I think Jari-Matti will push until the end. I will have to do the same."

Latvala finished 16.6 seconds off P3 in his BP Ford Abu Dhabi WRT-run Focus RS WRC car, and while he continued to push on the repeat loop to claw back time, in the end he wasn't quick enough.

"When the road was clean I had a good feeling," Latvala said. "Most of the second run through Panzerplatte was like that and I drove really well. Apart from my spin the day went well, but there are still areas in which we can improve. As long as there are kilometres remaining, I will fight to try to regain third, but I can't push any harder than I have done today."

Petter Solberg completes the top five having moved back up from ninth after two punctures on day one. 'Hollywood' had considered withdrawing this morning to save money for the next WRC round, but his sponsors told him to continue and that perseverance has paid dividends.

Indeed while he has benefitted from problems that befell his rivals, he has set some top times too, winning SS11 and SS14.

"Today has been really good fun and starting was the right decision after all," Solberg said. "The car is definitely the best car on tarmac, and being fastest on [the repeat run through] Panzerplatte [SS14] was awesome.

"I got the splits in the car during the stage, and it felt so good to know that we took second after second on Loeb. And after the accident on Panzerplatte in 2004, it feels extremely good to have defeated Panzerplatte - so Phil [Mills - my ex-co-driver], this one is for you!"

Further down the order, F1 2007 world champion Kimi Raikkonen is sixth, and while he couldn't stay ahead of Solberg, he did get in front of Matthew Wilson. Raikkonen now has a 19.5 second lead over the Stobart Ford man.

"We had a clutch problem near the end," Kimi revealed, "but apart from that it was okay. I'm quite pleased with our day. We were much closer to the pace than we were yesterday. With some other drivers having retired, we are now sixth. So our aim is to hang onto this position until the end."

Wilson added: "I'm going to push hard tomorrow to try and catch up on Kimi - I really want my sixth place position back. My best chances are in the first two stages - we've been doing our best on the morning pass so if I can beat Kimi, I think it will be in SS15 and SS16."

Mikko Hirvonen ends the day in eighth. He had to stop in SS13 due to transmission issues, but will re-start Sunday under the SupeRally. He had been running fifth prior to his problems, 16.2 seconds behind his BP Ford Abu Dhabi team-mate, Latvala.

"The car was in first gear at a hairpin bend when it lost all drive," Hirvonen explained. "We pushed the car downhill and off the road. But we couldn't find what was wrong so there was no way we could continue. It was disappointing because I felt happier this afternoon and my confidence had returned. I enjoyed the driving, which wasn't the case in the morning when I didn't have a good feeling with the car."

Of the rest, Ken Block and Mark van Eldik round out the top ten followed by Khalid Al-Qassimi in eleventh and P-G Andersson in twelfth. Andersson incidentally leads the SWRC class, 4.6 seconds up on fellow Skoda Fabia S2000 runner, Patrik Sandell.

In the other support categories, Armindo Araujo and Hans Weijs Jr both remain top in the PWRC and JWRC respectively - a position they have held from the get-go.

In terms of retirements, in addition to Hirvonen, Francois Duval also went out. The WRC returnee crashed in the final stage of the day, rolling his Stobart Ford Focus RS WRC car around seven kilometres before the finish. Duval and co-driver, Denis Giraudet both escaped unhurt. Duval had been running fifth. He will not be able to re-start.

"What can I say? I'm very disappointed to have to retire - everything had been going so well for us today and I'd found a good rhythm and some stage times that I was pleased with," Duval reflected. "I was catching up with some of the top five drivers and getting more and more confident as the rally went on.

"I'd been pushing hard to try and hold a lead over Petter [Solberg] but some understeer and a misjudged corner about 7km towards the end of the stage cause me to roll the Ford Focus between two hinkelsteins. The car is badly damaged on Denis' side but I do not know the state of the rest of the car as we left for a hospital check up straight after getting out of the car."

Rallye Deutschland now concludes on Sunday, with five stages on the bill and 85.69 competitive kilometres. SS15, the 22.58 kilometre Dhrontal test, starts at 07.28 hours local time.

Rallye Deutschland: Overall standings after Stage 14 / Day 2 (Top 10):

1. Sebastien Loeb Citroen Total WRT C4 WRC 3hours 05mins 21.6secs M
2. Dani Sordo Citroen Total WRT C4 WRC +00mins 35.7secs M
3. Sebastien Ogier Citroen Junior Team C4 WRC +02mins 07.1secs M
4. Jari-Matti Latvala BP Ford Abu Dhabi Focus RS WRC +02mins 23.7secs M
5. Petter Solberg PSWRT Citroen C4 WRC +05mins 16.0secs A8
6. Kimi Raikkonen Citroen Junior Team C4 WRC +07mins 24.4secs M
7. Matthew Wilson Stobart M-Sport Ford Focus WRC +07mins 43.9secs M
8. Mikko Hirvonen BP Ford Abu Dhabi Focus RS WRC +12mins 27.4secs M*
9. Ken Block Monster WRT Ford Focus RS WRC +12mins 38.9secs A8
10. Mark van Eldik Subaru Impreza S14 WRC +14mins 10.9secs A8

SWRC Standings after Stage 14 / Day 2 (Top 3):

1. P-G Andersson Skoda Fabia S2000 3hours 19mins 40.3secs S
2. Patrik Sandell Skoda Fabia S2000 +00mins 04.6secs S
3. Martin Prokop Ford Fiesta S2000 +00mins 05.8secs S

PWRC Standings after Stage 14 / Day 2 (Top 3):

1. Armindo Araujo Mitsubishi Lancer Evo X 3hours 26mins 01.1secs P
2. Hayden Paddon Mitsubishi Lancer Evo X +00mins 23.8secs P
3. Patrik Flodin Subaru Impreza STi +01mins 28.6secs P

JWRC Standings after Stage 14 / Day 2 (Top 3):

1. Hans Weijs Jr Citroen C2 S1600 3hours 28mins 01.7secs J
2. Aaron Burkart Suzuki Swift S1600 +05mins 01.1secs J
3. Karl Kruuda Suzuki Swift S1600 +10mins 01.7secs J

Notable retirements:

SS2. Henning Solberg Stobart M-Sport Ford Fiesta S2000 Mechanical*

SS13. Mikko Hirvonen BP Ford Abu Dhabi Focus RS WRC Mechanical M*
SS14. Francois Duval Stobart M-Sport Ford Focus WRC Crashed M
SS14. Henning Solberg Stobart M-Sport Ford Fiesta S2000 Engine

* denotes SupeRally runner.

all times unofficial

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