Sebastien Loeb has re-taken the lead on Wales Rally GB and with Mikko Hirvonen losing nearly four minutes in SS7, the Frenchman now looks well placed to take his eighth WRC title.
Hirvonen had moved in front of Loeb this morning, having set the pace in SS5 and SS6. However in the 21.34 km-run through Dyfnant he went off the road, damaging a rear wheel and his radiator. Subsequently he had to stop after the first split when his Fiesta RS WRC began to overheat. Although he eventually got to the end of the test, it is currently uncertain if he will be able to get back to service.
Hirvonen's misfortune, puts Loeb back top, after he slipped 0.4 seconds behind in Dyfi East 1. The Citroen man now returns to Builth Wells for the 30-minute mid-day service with a 17.7 second lead.
“I found it very tricky [in that last test] because it is foggy at the top, so really difficult,” Loeb said. “I also had a few moments in stage so finally we are here - I am quite happy. Now we have to see what happens with Mikko.”
Hirvonen's team-mate Jari-Matti Latvala meanwhile now moves up to second, having been third quickest this morning in SS4, SS5 and SS6. He ended the loop with the second best time in SS7.
Mads Ostberg is next up for the M-Sport Stobart Ford team, albeit 42 seconds adrift of Latvala: “I guess a lot of things are happening,” said the Norwegian. “It [SS7] was a very hard stage. We had one big moment and we try to push like all the others. Coming into some of the corners there is just no grip.
“Horrible conditions with the fog but I actually enjoyed that stage. It is nice to make the heart beat sometimes!”
Further back, Petter Solberg is fourth in his privately entered Citroen DS3 WRC car, despite picking up a puncture, with his brother, Henning fifth followed by fellow M-Sport Stobart Ford runners Ott Tanak and Matthew Wilson in sixth and seventh respectively.
F1 2007 world champion Kimi Raikkonen, Dennis Kuipers and Evgeny Novikov round out the top ten, the latter one spot ahead of Kris Meeke, who lost 2.5 minutes after stopping with a mechanical issue in SS7.
In the PWRC, Patrik Flodin moved ahead of Jarkko Nikara in the final test of the morning and is now 9.9 seconds in front.
In terms of retirements, Dani Sordo was the most notable scalp, going out in SS5 when he went off the road in his MINI John Cooper Works WRC car and got stuck in a ditch.
Sebastien Ogier re-started this morning under the SupeRally, but is way down the order after his error on Thursday.
The action now continues this afternoon with a repeat-run through this morning's tests. SS8, the 10.31 kilometre Dyfi West 2 test, is due to start at 14.18 hours local time.
Wales Rally GB: Overall standings after Stage 7 - Top 10:
1. Sebastien Loeb
Citroen Total WRT DS3 WRC 48mins 37.7secs
2. Jari-Matti Latvala
Ford Abu Dhabi WRT Fiesta RS WRC +00mins 17.7secs
3. Mads Ostberg
M-Sport Stobart Ford Fiesta RS WRC +00mins 59.7secs
4. Petter Solberg
PSWRT Citroen DS3 WRC +01mins 13.4secs
5. Henning Solberg
M-Sport Stobart Ford Fiesta RS WRC +01mins 39.0secs
6. Ott Tanak
M-Sport Stobart Ford Fiesta RS WRC +01mins 52.9secs
7. Matthew Wilson
M-Sport Stobart Ford Fiesta RS WRC +02mins 07.8secs
8. Kimi Raikkonen
ICE1 Racing Citroen DS3 WRC +02mins 26.6secs
9. Dennis Kuipers
FERM Powertools Ford Fiesta RS WRC +02mins 32.7secs
10. Evgeny Novikov
Team Abu Dhabi Fiesta RS WRC +02mins 49.6secs
11. Kris Meeke
MINI WRT John Cooper Works +03mins 17.3secs
12. Ken Block
Monster WRT Ford Fiesta RS WRC +03mins 21.6secs
13. Mikko Hirvonen
Ford Abu Dhabi WRT Fiesta RS WRC +03mins 52.2secs
14. Kevin Abbring
Skoda Fabia S2000 +04mins 01.5secs
15. Armindo Araujo
Motorsport Italia/BAMP MINI John Cooper Works +04mins 11.6secs
17. Patrik Flodin
Subaru Impreza +04mins 55.2secs
PWRC standings after Stage 7 - Top 3:
1. Patrik Flodin
Subaru Impreza 53mins 32.9secs
2. Jarkko Nikara
Mitsubishi Lancer Evo IX +00mins 09.9secs
3. Michal Kosciuszko
Mitsubishi Lancer Evo X +00mins 55.2secs
SS1. Sebastien Ogier
Citroen Total WRT DS3 WRC Hit a wall and ripped off a wheel
SS5. Dani Sordo
MINI WRT John Cooper Works Went off
SS6. Martin Prokop
Ford Fiesta RS WRC Went off
*denotes re-started under SupeRally
all times unofficial