Citroen's Sebastien Loeb has concluded the second leg of the Acropolis Rally of Greece in the lead, although Petter Solberg put in a charge this afternoon and halved the Frenchman's advantage.

Loeb began day two with a 6.5 second cushion, but on the first loop Jari-Matti Latvala slashed that to 2.2 seconds. Latvala's bid for victory, however, came to an end in the first test this afternoon when he made a mistake and hit a bank. That incident left him with a slow puncture and near the end he had to stop and change it, costing him over 3 minutes and any chance of fighting for the win. After his misfortune, Petter Solberg took over the mantle as Loeb's main rival and with torrential rain transforming the rocky roads into a mud bath, 'Hollywood' went on the attack. Indeed he won the final three tests and in the process reduced the 21.9 second gap to just 10.2 seconds.

"The afternoon was very tricky." Loeb said after SS17. "There was a lot of mud in the special stages. The gravel in some places was okay, in some others not. I lost time due to the rain, but we still have a 10 second advantage for tomorrow."

"I made some small detailed improvements to the car [in the mid-day service] and it made a huge difference," Solberg added. "After losing 14sec on Thursday and 10sec yesterday, to lie just 10sec from the lead tonight isn't so bad. It will be a big fight tomorrow and I'm feeling confident. The stages will suit me and I really want to win."

Mikko Hirvonen is on course for the final place on the podium, albeit now almost 2 minutes adrift of his team-mate. Hirvonen had a pretty average day, after struggling in the morning with his DS3 WRC.

Latvala is next up following his problems in SS14 and he now lies almost 3 minutes off P3 and a similar amount up on Mads Ostberg in fifth.

"It [the impact with the bank] happened in a medium speed left corner," Latvala explained. "It was uphill and I went into it too fast. I thought if I carried more speed into the corner, I would be faster in the uphill exit. But the car touched a bank and the tyre soon started to come off the rim. It eventually came off completely and the rocky road broke the wheel, so I had to stop to change it. It was disappointing after such a big fight for the lead. It has been a disappointing year, but I will keep fighting."

Ostberg meanwhile got in front of Martin Prokop in SS15 this afternoon after the Czech driver lost the rear anti-roll bar: "This made the car very unstable," Prokop explained. "It was not possible to go fast because the balance of the car was very tricky. We were cruising through to the finish, but we are happy with this position - it is perfect."

Further back, Citroen Junior WRT driver Thierry Neuville has climbed up to seventh, with Sebastien Ogier eighth in his VW Motorsport-run Skoda Fabia S2000, despite losing the power steering in SS15. Yazeed Al-Rajhi, who is running in a Ford Fiesta RRC, lies ninth, with Andreas Mikkelsen currently classified in tenth. Mikkelsen had to stop in SS16 due to a mechanical issue, but assuming he can continue under the Rally 2 rules, he could still claim a point.

Nasser Al-Attiyah was another runner that failed to complete the afternoon loop, stopping after SS14 due to a driveshaft failure. Other significant retirements included WRC MINI Team Portugal man Armindo Araujo, who stopped in SS15 and earlier in the day, Evgeny Novikov. Novikov had been in a comfortable fifth, before a water pump failure sidelined him on the road section to SS13.

In the support categories, Nicolas Fuchs looks set still for PWRC glory, 4.5 minutes up on Valeriy Gorban. As for the WRC Academy, which finished after SS13, Elfyn Evans claimed his maiden victory in the class, 2 minutes 15.9 seconds up on Alastair Fisher.

The Acropolis Rally now concludes on Sunday and the final leg is the shortest of the event. After restarting at 08.30 hours [local time], drivers tackle two identical loops of two tests, before the final Power Stage, which offers bonus points to the fastest three drivers. The five stages cover 65.55 competitive kilometres with the finish back in Loutraki at 15.30 hours [local time].

Acropolis Rally: Overall standings after Stage 17 (Top 10):

1. Sebastien Loeb Citroen Total WRT DS3 WRC 3hours 56mins 13.0secs M
2. Petter Solberg Ford WRT Fiesta RS WRC +00mins 10.2secs M
3. Mikko Hirvonen Citroen Total WRT DS3 WRC +01mins 51.9secs M
4. Jari-Matti Latvala Ford WRT Fiesta RS WRC +04mins 44.6secs M
5. Mads Ostberg Adapta WRT Fiesta RS WRC +07mins 39.7secs
6. Martin Prokop Ford Fiesta RS WRC +08mins 08.6secs
7. Thierry Neuville Citroen Junior WRT DS3 WRC +10mins 39.4secs M
8. Sebastien Ogier VW Motorsport Skoda Fabia S2000 +12mins 17.9secs
9. Yazeed Al-Rajhi Ford Fiesta RCC 18mins 52.3secs
10. Andreas Mikkelsen VW Motorsport Skoda Fabia S2000 +22mins 08.6secs


11. Nasser Al-Attiyah Qatar WRT Citroen DS3 WRC +22mins 12.9secs M##
12. Ott Tanak M-Sport Ford WRT Fiesta RS WRC +24mins 23.6secs M
14. Armindo Araujo WRC MINI Team Portugal John Cooper Works WRC +29mins 11.6secs##
15. Evgeny Novikov M-Sport Ford WRT Fiesta RS WRC +29mins 31.6secs M##
17. Nicolas Fuchs Mitsubishi Lancer Evo IX +31mins 34.8secs P

## assumes will re-start on Sunday under Rally 2

PWRC standings after Stage 17 - Top 3:

1. Nicolas Fuchs Mitsubishi Lancer Evo IX 4hours 27mins 47.8secs P
2. Valeriy Gorban Mitsubishi Lancer Evo IX +04mins 36.8secs P
3. Subhan Aksa Mitsubishi Lancer Evo X +06mins 22.5secs P

WRC Academy standings after Stage 13#:

1. Elfyn Evans Ford Fiesta RS 3hours 46mins 35.5secs A
2. Alastair Fisher Ford Fiesta R2 +02mins 15.9secs A
3. Brendan Reeves Ford Fiesta R2 +02mins 32.2secs A
4. John MacCrone Ford Fiesta R2 +03mins 19.1secs A
5. Jose Suarez Ford Fiesta R2 +03mins 25.9secs A
6. Chris Duplessis Ford Fiesta R2 +09mins 21.4secs A
7. Timo van der Marel Ford Fiesta R2 +21mins 22.7secs A

# WRC Academy event ended after SS13

Notable retirements:

SS3. Daniel Oliveira Brazil WRT Ford Fiesta RS WRC Retired from leg - driver ill M*
SS7/SS8. Ott Tanak M-Sport Ford WRT Fiesta RS WRC Went off road M*

SS10. Paulo Nobre WRC MINI Team Portugal John Cooper Works WRC Suspension
SS12/SS13. Evgeny Novikov M-Sport Ford WRT Fiesta RS WRC Mechanical M
SS14/SS15. Nasser Al-Attiyah Qatar WRT Citroen DS3 WRC Mechanical M
SS15. Armindo Araujo WRC MINI Team Portugal John Cooper Works WRC Lost a wheel

* denotes re-started under Rally 2

all times unofficial


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