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.