Citroen number one driver Sebastien Loeb has taken the lead on Rally Italia Sardegna following the opening two stages.

Loeb, who was running fifth on the road, was quickest on the first-run through the 28.14 kilometre Terranova test, 1.4 seconds up on his team-mate, Mikko Hirvonen. Although the situation was reversed on the repeat-run through, Loeb was only 0.3 seconds off the sister works DS3 WRC car and will now go into day two on Friday with a slender 1.1 second cushion.

"I was quite surprised by Ford's choice to be first on the road because we all know the features of the stages here in Sardinia," Loeb said in the end of day service. "The perfect road position was fifth and I think our choice couldn't have been better. It's a tough event though, and we're still at the beginning of it."

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"All okay, the starting position we chose was good and our tyre choice was right," Hirvonen chipped in. "Tomorrow and Saturday will be very tough."

Behind the battling Citroens, Petter Solberg leads the Ford charge, having been third quickest in both SS1 and SS2. He lies 12.8 seconds off P2.

"I'm satisfied with tonight. There was a delay before the start of the second stage and we didn't have time to fit the extra lights to the car. It wasn't too bad, but it was quite dark in the forest sections and it was tricky to pick the correct braking points," Solberg remarked.

Team-mate Jari-Matti Latvala meanwhile has had an awful start. The Finn had been quickest in qualifying and elected to run first in the order, in the belief that it would give him an advantage on Terranova 2, as he would avoid having to complete the stage in the dark. However he lost 15.3 seconds in SS1, as he had to sweep the line, and he then lost even more time in SS2 when he broke the front-left wheel on his Fiesta RS WRC about 10 kilometres in. Latvala is thus down in sixth overnight, 42.1 seconds adrift of the leader.

"It happened at a left corner, which had some bedrock on the inside," Latvala recalled. "I was faster into the bend than the first pass and I turned in more. I knew there was a rock, but with the extra speed I couldn't avoid it. The impact broke the wheel and the air came out of the tyre. But to drive for so long like that and lose less than 30sec is amazing. It proves how strong Michelin's tyres are.

"The gamble of running first on the road didn't pay off because the conditions weren't as we expected. Once the loose gravel had been swept away, it was damp beneath, and that offered good grip to everyone," he added.

Sandwiched between the two Ford World Rally Team entries, Thierry Neuville, competing under the Qatar WRT banner here, is fourth, with Mads Ostberg, in his Adapta WRT Fiesta RS WRC, fifth. Ostberg suffered a spin in SS1 after hitting a stone and bending a steering arm. He was still fourth fastest though, and was then sixth in SS2.

"Today was quite OK. The first stage [SS1] was really good up until about three kilometres before the end when we hit a rock on the inside of a corner. We didn't have it in the pacenotes so I don't know if it had been dragged out or if we missed it on the recce. But we hit it, spun, bent the steering arm and damaged the cross-member on the front-left corner," Ostberg said.

"At the time, we only noticed the problem with the steering arm so we bent it back to almost straight and thought it was OK. We didn't know about the cross member for SS2 and the car felt really strange and it was really crazy. But we managed to finish the stage and we will fight back tomorrow."

Further back, M-Sport Ford pair Evgeny Novikov and Ott Tanak are seventh and ninth respectively, with Chris Atkinson in between in P8 in his MINI WRC Team Portugal John Cooper Works WRC car.

Tanak struggled in SS1 and SS2 after opting for the hard compound tyres, everyone else went for the softer compound: "We made a really bad choice with the tyres," Tanak admitted. "I was expecting them to work a bit better because it was really warm outside, but the surface was so sandy and loose. We've done almost 60 km of stages today and the tyres are still like new!

"It was a big disappointment and we lost a lot of time. Unfortunately we now have to start tomorrow at the front as well; it will not be an easy day but we will for sure try to take the time back."

Martin Prokop completes the provisional points' scorers at this early stage with the VW Motorsport Skoda Fabia S2000s of Andreas Mikkelsen and Sebastien Ogier just outside the top ten in eleventh and twelfth respectively, the latter slowed by a puncture in Terranova 2.

In the PWRC, Nicolas Fuchs heads the class in his Subaru Impreza STi, 9 seconds up on Marcos Ligato. Valeriy Gorban is third. Benito Guerra and Michal Kosciuszko both stopped in SS2. It has still to be confirmed if they will re-start.

Rally Italia Sardegna now continues on Friday, with two loops of three stages on the bill and a total competitive distance of 117.36 kilometres. SS3, the 29.68 km Monte Lerno 1 test, is due to start at 08.43 hours local time on Friday morning [07.43 hours UK time].

Rally Italia Sardegna: Overall standings after Stage 2 (Top 10):

1. Sebastien Loeb Citroen Total WRT DS3 WRC 37mins 59.1secs M
2. Mikko Hirvonen Citroen Total WRT DS3 WRC +00mins 01.1secs M
3. Petter Solberg Ford WRT Fiesta RS WRC +00mins 13.9secs M
4. Thierry Neuville Qatar WRT Citroen DS3 WRC +00mins 26.2secs M
5. Mads Ostberg Adapta WRT Fiesta RS WRC +00mins 33.5secs
6. Jari-Matti Latvala Ford WRT Fiesta RS WRC +00mins 42.1secs M
7. Evgeny Novikov M-Sport Ford WRT Fiesta RS WRC +00mins 51.2secs M
8. Chris Atkinson WRC MINI Team Portugal John Cooper Works WRC +01mins 28.9secs
9. Ott Tanak M-Sport Ford WRT Fiesta RS WRC +01mins 31.4secs M
10. Martin Prokop Czech Ford National Team Fiesta RS WRC +01mins 48.2secs


11. Andreas Mikkelsen VW Motorsport Skoda Fabia S2000 +02mins 18.8secs
12. Sebastien Ogier VW Motorsport Skoda Fabia S2000 +02mins 45.8secs
13. Karl Kruuda Ford Fiesta S2000 +03mins 35.2secs
14. Luca Pedersoli Citroen DS3 WRC +04mins 44.2secs
15. Paolo Nobre WRC MINI Team Portugal John Cooper Works WRC +05mins 41.3secs
17. Nicolas Fuchs Subaru Impreza STi 05mins 53.6secs P
18. Marcos Ligato Subaru Impreza STi 06mins 02.6secs P

PWRC standings after Stage 2 (Top 3):

1. Nicolas Fuchs Subaru Impreza STi 43mins 52.7secs P
2. Marcos Ligato Subaru Impreza STi +00mins 09.0secs P
3. Valeriy Gorban Mitsubishi Lancer Evo IX +00mins 55.1secs P

Notable retirements:


all times unofficial