Volkswagen's Jari-Matti Latvala will take a slender 1.6 second lead into the final day of Rally de Espana, when the action switches to gravel, with the Finn getting the dubious honour of running first on the road.

Latvala and Sordo were neck and neck throughout much of the second leg and after overnight leader, Sebastien Ogier picked up a puncture in SS6 and lost over 50 seconds, the duo went into the mid-day halt tied for P1.

On the second loop this afternoon there was again nothing between them, although tactics did come into play in SS8, with Sordo admitting he had eased off in order to ensure he wouldn't have to act as the principal road sweeper on Sunday.

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"Of course I'm pleased to be leading in the Rally Spain at the end of day two," said Latvala, who was quickest in three of the day's six stages, including the final one, the short 2.24 km Salou super special. "But the terrain is about to change from asphalt to gravel now. It's not an easy situation because I'll have to open the route as the leading driver, meaning I'll clear the ideal line for the cars behind me.

"All the same, we didn't spend a single second today driving tactically - instead, we tried to secure ourselves a bit of a lead. I hope that the weather will give me a bit of extra help tomorrow and the damp will improve grip, at least first thing in the morning. It is certainly set to be exciting because four drivers could still win. We'll have to give 100 per cent if we want to stay in the running."

"I think we have had a great race up to this point and we have achieved our objective of staying behind Jari-Matti," Sordo added. "The final outcome is however far from decided, with Neuville, Ogier, Hirvonen and Novikov all not far behind.

"It is difficult to know who has the best position, but I do know that we'll have to push as hard as possible tomorrow! It'll be difficult, because gravel really isn't my favourite surface, but I'll fight to try and win."

Behind, Thierry Neuville lies third in his Qatar World Rally Team Fiesta RS WRC, almost 30 seconds off the battle for the lead, and 17.2 seconds up on Ogier in fourth.

"I think it is fair to say that this morning, the times just weren't there. We tried to minimise the gap to the guys in front, but the set-up wasn't really working for us and we were losing time on every stage," Neuville said. "After speaking with the team, we made some changes to the set-up in [midday] service and immediately the car felt great and our confidence was right back to what it had been in the previous events. It was a lot easier to fight with the other drivers and the three points in the Power Stage were very important for the championship.

"Of course tomorrow is another day. If Jari-Matti takes the full 25 points - and the additional point from this afternoon [for third place in the Power Stage] - it will really reduce our advantage over him [in the championship]. We need to be clever tomorrow and find a good balance between taking time out of him [Latvala] and Dani and, ultimately, staying on the road."

"Today was going pretty well for us until the sixth stage, then we got a puncture in our front left tyre in the 15th kilometre. Although we still made it to the end of the stage, it cost us more than 50 seconds," Ogier added. "And even though starting further back is an advantage tomorrow on gravel, it certainly wasn't a strategic move! Anyway, it will be difficult to make it right to the front tomorrow - but I never give up. We'll definitely go on the attack 100 per cent tomorrow."

Citroen's Mikko Hirvonen is next up, having got ahead of Evgeny Novikov - albeit by only 0.3 seconds - in the final test of the day.

"Maybe I lost a few seconds by being too cautious on Colldejou [SS6/8], but overall it has been a positive day," said Hirvonen. "I will have a very good starting position tomorrow. I've got nothing to lose, so I'm going to go for it without holding back, to try and finish on the podium. The top six drivers all have a real chance."

"We were able to push a little bit more this afternoon and again I was happy with the times," Novikov continued. "I think we can be pleased with what we have done on the asphalt stages and tomorrow we will just continue the way we have been going and see what happens."

Of the rest Mads Ostberg is a lonely seventh, more than 1.5 minutes off his Qatar M-Sport team-mate ahead, and over 30 seconds up on Martin Prokop in eighth.

"Today has been a lot better than yesterday. OK, we started a bit off the pace this morning but we altered the set-up of the car and immediately I found more confidence. From the third stage of the day [SS6], it has been a really good day for us," said Ostberg.

"That was where we wanted to start the rally, but unfortunately it was not to be. That is just the way it is sometimes, but I think we ended the day well and I am really excited about tomorrow. There'll be no real tactic. Result wise, there is nothing much we can do, but we will certainly push because we want to prove that we can be competitive and set some good stage times."

Hayden Paddon and former F1 winner, Robert Kubica complete the top ten, the latter now more than 4 minutes up on his closest class rival in the battle for the WRC2 victory, after Elfyn Evans stopped in SS9 after hitting a concrete bollard.

Evans had been running second in class and eleventh overall. He wasn't the only major casualty on day two either, as Andreas Mikkelsen and Nasser Al-Attiyah also went out. Mikkelsen hit a rock and damaged his suspension in the very first test this morning, while Al-Attiyah crashed in SS8.

"About halfway through the first Special Stage, I slid off the track because of understeer," Mikkelsen explained. "It was only a small mistake, but I hit a big stone in a ditch. Then the back right suspension broke and we replaced lots of parts on the car. Unfortunately, we didn't make it to the start of the next stage in time.

"Now we face the gravel stages tomorrow, but we've got a good starting position at the back of the WRC field because we retired today. I hope this will mean we can put in a couple of good SS times tomorrow."

"Today we started with some changes on the car and we were making improvements in many areas," Al-Attiyah added. "I was really happy with the way things were going - we were driving at our own pace and learning a lot on the Tarmac - but unfortunately we had a crash [on SS8]. This is just part of rallying, and the main thing is that Giovanni [Bernacchini, my co-driver] and I are OK."

The event now concludes on Sunday, with two loops of three stages on the bill. SS10, the 7 km Gandesa test, is due to start at 07.33 hours local time [06.33 hours UK time].

Rally de Espana: Overall standings after Stage 9 (Top 10):

1. Jari-Matti Latvala Volkswagen Motorsport Polo R WRC 2hour 06m 08.9s M
2. Dani Sordo Citroen Total Abu Dhabi WRT DS3 WRC +00m 01.6s M
3. Thierry Neuville Qatar WRT Ford Fiesta RS WRC +00m 29.3s M
4. Sebastien Ogier Volkswagen Motorsport Polo R WRC +00m 46.5s M
5. Mikko Hirvonen Citroen Total Abu Dhabi WRT DS3 WRC +00m 57.8s M
6. Evgeny Novikov Qatar M-Sport WRT Ford Fiesta RS WRC +00m 57.9s M
7. Mads Ostberg Qatar M-Sport WRT Ford Fiesta RS WRC +02m 28.4s M
8. Martin Prokop Jipocar Czech National Team Ford Fiesta RS WRC +03m 06.7s M
9. Hayden Paddon Qatar M-Sport WRT Ford Fiesta RS WRC +03m 08.6s
10. Robert Kubica Citroen DS3 RRC +04m 07.6s WRC2


11. Sepp Wiegand Skoda Fabia S2000 +08m 08.4s WRC2
12. Khalid Al Qassimi Abu Dhabi Citroen Total WRT DS3 WRC +08m 14.2s M
13. Abdulaziz Al-Kuwari Seashore Qatar WRT Ford Fiesta RS WRC +08m 23.1s
14. Yazeed Al-Rajhi Ford Fiesta RRC +08m 59.9s WRC2
15. Enrique Garcia Ojeda Citroen DS3 R3T +12m 40.3s WRC3
16. Benito Guerra Jr Mitsubishi Lancer Evo X +15m 26.9s
17. Subhan Aksa Ford Fiesta R5 +16m 19.6s WRC2
18. Robert Barrable Ford Fiesta R5 +16m 36.0s WRC2

Rally de Espana: Power Stage / SS8 (Top 3):

1. Thierry Neuville Qatar WRT Ford Fiesta RS WRC 15m 36.8s M
2. Sebastien Ogier Volkswagen Motorsport Polo R WRC +00m 02.8s M
3. Jari-Matti Latvala Volkswagen Motorsport Polo R WRC +00m 03.2s M

NOTE: Top three finishers in Power Stage are awarded bonus points. 1st = 3 points; 2nd = 2 points; 3rd = 1 point

WRC2 standings after Stage 8 (Top 3):

1. Robert Kubica Citroen DS3 RRC 2hours 10m 16.5s WRC2
2. Sepp Wiegand Skoda Fabia S2000 +04m 00.8s WRC2
3. Yazeed Al-Rajhi Ford Fiesta RRC +04m 52.3s WRC2

WRC3 standings after Stage 8 (Top 3):

1. Enrique Garcia Ojeda Citroen DS3 R3T 2hrs 15m 53.5s WRC3
2. Mohamed Al-Mutawaa Citroen DS3 R3T +05m 48.4s WRC3
3. Mohamed Al-Sahlawi Citroen DS3 R3T +17m 01.7s WRC3

JWRC standings after Stage 8 (Top 3):

1. Yeray Lemes Ford Fiesta R2 2hrs 20m 16.5s JWRC
2. Marius Aasen Ford Fiesta R2 +02m 29.3s JWRC
3. Sander Parn Ford Fiesta R2 +03m 16.9s JWRC

Notable retirements:

SS4. Andreas Mikkelsen Volkswagen Motorsport II Polo R WRC Suspension damage - hit a rock M*
SS8. Nasser Al-Attiyah Qatar WRT Ford Fiesta RS WRC Crashed M
SS9. Elfyn Evans Qatar M-Sport WRT Ford Fiesta R5 Stopped in stage WRC2

*denotes expected to re-start under the Rally 2 regulations;
M denotes Manufacturer entry;

all times unofficial