Ford's Jari-Matti Latvala all-but doubled his overnight lead on Wales Rally GB this morning.

Latvala began the day 12.1 seconds up on his team-mate, Petter Solberg, and he immediately took 2.4 seconds out of the Norwegian in the first test of the day, the 19.50 km Crychan 1 test, setting the second best time, just 0.4 seconds off Mads Ostberg, despite a 'couple of moments'.

Latvala was second again in SS8, Epynt 1, 0.3 seconds off Sebastien Loeb, who finally gave Citroen its first stage win of the event.

The Finn then finished the loop with fastest time in Halfway 1, 3 seconds up on Loeb. As a result he now heads back to Cardiff for the 30 minute mid-day service with his cushion up to 22.2 seconds.

"It was slippery but those conditions have always suited this car," said Latvala. "The first 1.5km of the opening stage were very wet under the trees. Cars cutting across the grass made the surface muddy and twice I was almost off the road before my co-driver told me to calm down. Nothing comes for free, so I know I have to continue to work hard if I want a victory.

"Tyre choice will be critical this afternoon. The stages are drying so we have to study the weather reports and calculate whether the soft or hard compound will be quicker," added the Finn.

Solberg meanwhile remains second in the other works Fiesta RS WRC car, although he lost a bit of time in SS7 this morning when he briefly slid off the road in the slippery and foggy conditions. He also conceded time to Loeb in SS8 and SS9 too, with the Frenchman closing the gap from 9.2 seconds to just 3.9.

"I had the same set-up on the car as yesterday, but the roads here are different and the settings were too soft and too low. On the better surfaces it was fine, but in the softer sections the car bottomed out in the ruts. The last stage was the worst and that's where I dropped most time. We'll change the settings now and it should be perfect for the afternoon," said Solberg.

"The grip was a lot better on the last two stages and we were more competitive," Loeb added. "We had two hard tyres, but we didn't use them as the road surface wasn't dry enough. I think we'll have to forget about Latvala, who now has a clear lead in the overall standings. On the other hand though, we are getting closer to Petter, so we'll try and move ahead of him this afternoon."

Behind, Ostberg followed up his SS7 stage win by setting the fourth best time in SS8 and a third best time in SS9. That has allowed him to increase the gap over Mikko Hirvonen in fifth. Hirvonen has continued to struggle and is now 30 seconds adrift of P4.

"I think we have had a good morning. All three stages went quite well and we pushed hard to take more time from Mikko and also to try and make up some time on S?bastien and Petter. OK Loeb made up a little bit of time on me, but I think we took about four seconds out of Petter so I am quite happy with that," Ostberg noted. "We will continue pushing this afternoon as well and we will make some small changes with the car to try and make it 100 per cent perfect for the second pass."

Ott Tanak rounds out the top six for the M-Sport Ford WRT, ahead of team-mate, Evgeny Novikov and Citroen Junior WRT runner, Thierry Neuville.

"This morning has been quite OK. The first and last stages [SS7 and SS9] were quite foggy on some of the fast sections, but it wasn't too bad and the visibility was still pretty good," Tanak remarked. "The car is feeling good now and the feeling on gravel is coming back. We had quite a good feeling on the first stage [SS7] but on the second and third ones [SS8 and SS9] we lost a bit on the later splits. But OK, we are not pushing so hard right now so we will see what we can do this afternoon."

Matthew Wilson and Martin Prokop complete the top ten, with Chris Atkinson, Sebastian Ogier, Nasser Al-Attiyah and SWRC class leader, Craig Breen, who heads the support class by over a minute, in positions 11 through to 14.

"Something has gone wrong with the gearbox over the last stage [SS9]," Breen revealed. "It started to drain all the oil out of somewhere, although we can't see exactly where just yet. We didn't lose much time, fortunately, so now it is just a case of whether or not the guys can change it in time. We have still got a minute's lead so I have to be happy with this. This afternoon we just have to drive round. It is agonisingly slow but unfortunately I blotted my copy book when I was leading in Finland so I just need to be very clever about what I do now."

In terms of retirements, M-Sport Ford WRT 'guest' driver Jannie Habig went out in the first test this morning when he slid off and got stuck in a ditch. He will re-start on Sunday under the Rally 2 rules, as P-G Andersson and Haydon Paddon both did this morning after their exits on Friday.

The action now continues this afternoon with a repeat-run through this morning's three tests.

SS10, Crychan 2, is due to start at 15.17 hours local time.

Wales Rally GB: Overall standings after Stage 9 (Top 10):

1. Jari-Matti Latvala Ford WRT Fiesta RS WRC 1hour 50mins 49.5secs M
2. Petter Solberg Ford WRT Fiesta RS WRC +00mins 22.2secs M
3. Sebastien Loeb Citroen Total WRT DS3 WRC +00mins 26.1secs M
4. Mads Ostberg Adapta WRT Fiesta RS WRC +00mins 38.3secs M
5. Mikko Hirvonen Citroen Total WRT DS3 WRC +01mins 08.9secs M
6. Ott Tanak M-Sport Ford WRT Fiesta RS WRC +01mins 28.8secs M
7. Evgeny Novikov M-Sport Ford WRT Fiesta RS WRC +01mins 46.1secs M
8. Thierry Neuville Citroen Junior WRT DS3 WRC +03mins 04.6secs M
9. Matthew Wilson M-Sport Ford WRT Fiesta RS WRC +04mins 00.0secs
10. Martin Prokop Ford Fiesta RS WRC +04mins 35.0secs


11. Chris Atkinson WRC MINI Team Portugal John Cooper Works WRC +05mins 12.7secs
12. Sebastien Ogier VW Motorsport Skoda Fabia S2000 +05mins 36.5secs
13. Nasser Al-Attiyah Qatar WRT Citroen DS3 WRC +06mins 52.1secsM
14. Craig Breen Ford Fiesta S2000 +07mins 40.8secs S

SWRC standings after Stage 9 - Top 3:

1. Craig Breen Ford Fiesta S2000 1hour 58mins 30.3secs S
2. Yazeed Al-Rajhi Ford Fiesta S2000 +01mins 08.2secs S
3. Tom Cave Proton Satria Neo S2000 +03mins 02.8secs S

Notable retirements:

SS2. Per-Gunnar Andersson Proton Satria Neo S2000 Lost a wheel S*
SS2/3. Alastair Fisher Ford Fiesta S2000 Suspension damage S*
SS3/SS4. Haydon Paddon Skoda Fabia S2000 Mechanical S*

SS7. Jannie Habig M-Sport Ford WRT Fiesta RS WRC Went off the road

* denotes re-started under Rally 2

all times unofficial