Sebastien Loeb has taken over the lead on Rally de Espana this morning, after Mads Ostberg slipped back following an off in SS8.
Loeb finished the rain-hit opening leg, which took place on predominantly gravel stages, 27.2 seconds back, but with the remaining tests now all on pure asphalt, he came to the fore in his Citroen DS3 WRC car.
Indeed he won two of the three tests and with Ostberg stumbling in El Priorat 1, the Frenchman now heads back for the mid-day service in PortAventura with an 18.9 second advantage: “I know I'm ahead, but we need to keep pushing,” Loeb said after SS9.
Ford's Jari-Matti Latvala meanwhile heads the chasing pack and the Finn was quickest in the first test of the day, the 20.48 kilometre La Mussara test, 7.1 seconds up on Loeb. However he had to settle for the second best times in SS8 and SS9, 3.6 seconds back in the former and 2.6 seconds slower in the latter.
“I tried to push [in the last test of the loop], but the surface was so dirty that I chose to be as cautious as possible,” Jari-Matti explained.
Ostberg now lies third, 29 seconds off P2, having been over a minute off the pace in the middle test when he made that critical error: “After my mistake in the previous stage, I'm now much more focused to avoid further errors,” said the Norwegian.
Behind, Mikko Hirvonen is only 8 seconds adrift in fourth, and the Finn had a consistent morning, posting two third fastest times and one fourth.
Ott Tanak rounds out the top five for the M-Sport Ford WRT, albeit 27 seconds off the fight for the final spot on the podium.
Further back, Han Weijs has moved up sixth in the Qatar WRT Citroen DS3 WRC, ahead of runaway SWRC leader, Craig Breen and the Prodrive WRC Team MINI John Cooper Works WRC car of Jarkko Nikara.