The weather might have been miserable for the second morning's set of stages on the 2010 Rallye de France, but the thousands of partisan fans who had turned out to cheer on home hero Sébastien Loeb cared not a jot, as the local star continued to set the pace and eke out his advantage.
With a brace of victories – on SS9, Klevener 1, and SS11, Pays d'Ormont 1 – Loeb has stretched his margin over his pursuers to 42.6 seconds with just over half of the rally now completed, with the Alsacien unusually benefitting from running first on the road, given that in such treacherous conditions, the more cars that pass through the stages, the more the route gets churned up and the trickier to drive it consequently becomes.
That much was attested to by current second-placed runner Dani Sordo, who described the roads as more akin to a skating rink. Nonetheless, whilst losing ground to Citroën team-mate Loeb, the Spaniard has edged increasingly away from Sébastien Ogier in the battle over the runner-up trophy. Sordo outpaced Ogier on all four of Saturday morning's stages – and indeed led the way outright on SS10, Ungersberg 1 – with the Frenchman conceding that at the moment, he has no answer.
Still in contention for the podium, too, and keeping a watching brief behind, are Petter Solberg and Jari-Matti Latvala, who have swapped places again in their tussle over fourth. The Finn hit some logs on SS11 but set the fastest time of anyone on SS12, Salm 1, to close back to within just 7.5 seconds of the former World Rally Champion. Latvala's BP Ford Abu Dhabi team-mate Mikko Hirvonen continues to run a lonely sixth – almost two seconds further back still – baffled by his lack of pace and inability to successfully find a feeling for the stage conditions and characteristics.
Two big-name casualties of the second morning, meanwhile, have been former F1 World Champion Kimi Raikkonen – who lost more than half an hour and fell down to 49th place after inadvertently driving into a ditch on SS10 whilst running seventh – and current World Touring Car Championship leader Yvan Muller, who damaged a wheel on his PSWRT-run Citroën Xsara on SS11, the longest on the event. Having nursed his car back to service, the Frenchman hopes to rejoin the fray in the afternoon, albeit down in a distant 54th position out of the 57 remaining competitors.
In Super 2000, Eyvind Brynildsen has extended an overnight advantage of less than five seconds to more than 20 over fellow Skoda ace Patrik Sandell, who spun twice on SS11 but responded well with the quickest time on SS12. Jari Ketomaa runs third on his asphalt debut.
In JWRC, the lead has changed hands, as Hans Weijs Jnr usurped overnight pace-setter Thierry Neuville on SS11, whilst the status quo
remains in PWRC, with Armindo Araujo having comfortably increased his margin over Anders Grondal and Ott Tanak.
Rallye de France: Overall standings after Stage 12 (Top 10):
1. Sebastien Loeb
Citroen Total WRT C4 WRC 2hrs 01mins 19.4secs
2. Dani Sordo
Citroen Total WRT C4 WRC +00mins 42.9secs
3. Sebastien Ogier
Citroen Junior Team C4 WRC +00mins 59.8secs
4. Petter Solberg
PSWRT Citroen C4 WRC +01mins 22.1secs
5. Jari-Matti Latvala
BP Ford Abu Dhabi Focus RS WRC +01mins 29.6secs
6. Mikko Hirvonen
BP Ford Abu Dhabi Focus RS WRC +03mins 15.6secs
7. Federico Villagra
Munchi's Ford Focus WRC +09mins 59.6secs
8. Matthew Wilson
Stobart M-Sport Ford Focus WRC +10mins 32.7secs
9. Henning Solberg
Stobart M-Sport Ford Fiesta S2000 +12mins 01.3secs
10. Eyvind Brynildsen
Skoda Fabia S2000 +12mins 24.8secs
SWRC Standings after Stage 12 (Top 3):
1. Eyvind Brynildsen
Skoda Fabia S2000 2hrs 13mins 44.2secs
2. Patrik Sandell
Skoda Fabia S2000 +00mins 20.3secs
3. Jari Ketomaa
Ford Fiesta S2000 +00mins 55.8secs
JWRC Standings after Stage 12 (Top 3):
1. Hans Weijs Jnr
Citroen C2 S1600 2hrs 19mins 09.5secs
2. Jeremy Ancian
Suzuki Swift S1600 +00mins 30.4secs
3. Thierry Neuville
Citroen C2 S1600 + 02mins 06.5secs
PWRC Standings after Stage 12 (Top 3):
1. Armindo Araujo
Mitsubishi Lancer Evo X 2hrs 16mins 32.7secs
2. Anders Grondal
Subaru Impreza STi +01mins 38.4secs
3. Ott Tanak
Mitsubishi Lancer Evo IX +01mins 54.0secs
all times unofficial