Citroen's Mikko Hirvonen continues to comfortably lead Rally Italia Sardegna following Saturday morning's opening loop.

Indeed despite taking it relatively easily, the Finn has managed to increase his overnight lead by 9.1 seconds, having been fourth quickest in SS9, fifth in SS10 and third in SS11.

He now heads into the 30 minute mid-day service in Olbia with a 1 minute 18.7 second advantage.

"I'm taking it really cautiously and taking care to try and avoid every single rock we see on the road. It is not easy at all to concentrate. It is terrible having to drive like this. I hate it!" Hirvonen remarked. "In the last stage of the loop, I tried to manage the advantage that I have. But it's hard not to push."

Behind, M-Sport Ford pair Evgeny Novikov and Ott Tanak remain second and third respectively, the former 49.9 seconds up on his team-mate, who in turn is almost 2 minutes up on the battle for fourth. Novikov won another test this morning and was quickest in SS10. He made a mistake towards the end of SS11, but other than that he had no issues.

"We just need to keep our position. Everything is going well for the moment so we will do nothing special over the next loop and just concentrate on keeping a good rhythm. It has been a bit slippery on the first loop and we had a small spin towards the end of the last stage [SS11], but we didn't lose much time and everything is working well," Novikov said.

"On the driving side, this morning has been really good. We have had no dramas and we have found a good rhythm - I feel comfortable and I think that we are being safe enough on the stages to hold this position," Tanak added.

"We have had a few small issues though - I think it might be something to do with the electronics because we have had a few warning lights come on. But it is not affecting the performance of the car and with service now I am sure the mechanics will be able to get to the bottom of it."

VW Motorsport man Sebastien Ogier meanwhile continues to hold fourth in his Skoda Fabia S2000, but he was left ruing the decision to fit the long-ratio gearbox and was reeled in by both MINI WRC Team Portgual's Chris Atkinson and Adapta Ford WRT driver, Mads Ostberg. Atkinson cut the Frenchman's advantage from 19.2 seconds to just 3.3 seconds post-SS11, but it is Ostberg that is the bigger threat. Indeed the Norwegian was quickest in SS9 and SS11 and second in SS10 as he looks to make up the time lost on Friday with a rear differential failure. He now lies just 11.2 seconds back in sixth.

"We found a good set-up with the car today so I am feeling a lot more confident," Ostberg remarked. "I made a few mistakes - I had a spin and it took some time to turn around and get back up to speed. We also had a puncture, so it has been pretty eventful again!

"But I am happy with the speed. We are getting better and better, but we need to stop making these kind of mistakes. Now we have to try a few things on the car and work on improving our run through the second loop."

Of the rest, Andreas Mikkelsen has slipped to seventh, losing out to Ostberg in SS9, followed by Martin Prokop, Karl Kruuda and Petter Solberg, who rounds out the top ten.

Solberg re-started this morning under the Rally 2 regulations, along with his Ford team-mate, Jari-Matti Latvala and Thierry Neuville. Sebastien Loeb elected not to rejoin after his day two retirement.

In the PWRC, Nicolas Fuchs now has a 2 minute 13.4 second lead over Valeriy Gorban. Marcos Ligato is third.

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

SS12, the 29.35 km Coiluna-Loelle test, is due to start at 14.48 hours local time [13.48 hours UK time].

Rally Italia Sardegna: Overall standings after Stage 11 (Top 10):

1. Mikko Hirvonen Citroen Total WRT DS3 WRC 2hours 34mins 02.2secs M
2. Evgeny Novikov M-Sport Ford WRT Fiesta RS WRC +01mins 18.7secs M
3. Ott Tanak M-Sport Ford WRT Fiesta RS WRC +02mins 08.6secs M
4. Sebastien Ogier VW Motorsport Skoda Fabia S2000 +04mins 06.5secs
5. Chris Atkinson WRC MINI Team Portugal John Cooper Works WRC +04mins 09.8secs
6. Mads Ostberg Adapta WRT Fiesta RS WRC +04mins 21.0secs
7. Andreas Mikkelsen VW Motorsport Skoda Fabia S2000 +05mins 13.5secs
8. Martin Prokop Czech Ford National Team Fiesta RS WRC +08mins 27.6secs
9. Karl Kruuda Ford Fiesta S2000 +09mins 21.4secs
10. Petter Solberg Ford WRT Fiesta RS WRC +10mins 41.8secs M

Others

11. Luca Pedersoli Citroen DS3 WRC +16mins 09.9secs
12. Nicolas Fuchs Subaru Impreza STi +18mins 25.8secs P
15. Valeriy Gorban Mitsubishi Lancer Evo IX +20mins 39.2secs P
16. Marcos Ligato Subaru Impreza STi +21mins 02.5secs P
18. Jari-Matti Latvala Ford WRT Fiesta RS WRC +25mins 10.5secs M
21. Paolo Nobre WRC MINI Team Portugal John Cooper Works WRC +26mins 26.9secs
28. Thierry Neuville Qatar WRT Citroen DS3 WRC +31mins 52.7secs M

PWRC standings after Stage 11 (Top 3):

1. Nicolas Fuchs Subaru Impreza STi 2hours 52mins 28.0secs P
2. Valeriy Gorban Mitsubishi Lancer Evo IX +02mins 13.4secs P
3. Marcos Ligato Subaru Impreza STi +02mins 36.7secs P

Notable retirements:

SS3. Sebastien Loeb Citroen Total WRT DS3 WRC Went off M
SS3/SS4. Thierry Neuville Qatar WRT Citroen DS3 WRC Rolled M*
SS4. Jari-Matti Latvala Ford WRT Fiesta RS WRC Went off M*
SS7. Petter Solberg Ford WRT Fiesta RS WRC Went off M*
SS8. Paolo Nobre WRC MINI Team Portugal John Cooper Works WRC Stopped on road section after final test - engine*

* denotes re-started under Rally 2

all times unofficial