Frenchman Sebastien Loeb
continues to lead the Rallye Sanremo, round eleven of this year's FIA World Rally Championship.
Xsara WRC driver is in the strange position of having finished each stage slower than second-placed Markko Martin, but still enjoys a bigger lead than the one he started with this morning.
The reason for this is that Martin had a 30-second time penalty added to his overall time after he was late leaving service while the Ford mechanics solved an electrical problem on his Focus RS WRC03.
Loeb confessed that with a one-minute cushion, there wasn't the need for him to drive on the limit the way he had through the opening leg. Loeb's day was without incident – save for a stall at a hairpin on the day's second test. Loeb now goes into the final day of the rally with a 43.2-second advantage over Martin. Marcus Gronholm remains third on a day which provided little movement in the top ten.
The three Citroen
Xsara WRCs ran without mechanical fault throughout the second leg.
Loeb maintained his grip on the event, his only problem came when he stalled the car in a hairpin on the second stage of the day. The Citroen
driver's lead was 43.2 seconds at the end of the leg, after Ford's Martin set fastest time on every stage today.
Spain's Carlos Sainz held station in fourth place, easing another 6.2 seconds clear of Gilles Panizzi on the final stage of the day. It was a similar story with Colin McRae, the Scot maintained the pace that he was happy at throughout the leg and remained in seventh place, although he did suffer a problem with the car's handbrake which caused it to stall on the final stage of the day.
"When I heard about Markko's penalty this morning then I decided to not go on the full attack," said Loeb, "It is quite hard, though, trying to drive the car when it is not flat-out. I am having to concentrate very hard now. I dropped about six or seven seconds on stage seven when the car stalled. Today has been a good day, I am happy – but there's still tomorrow."
Sainz added: "Today we have had no problems. Of course I am still trying to push hard and the car is working well. We changed the master cylinder on the brakes last night and we have not had any more trouble from that part of the car."
McRae continued: "If you don't get off to a flying start and get embroiled in the fight straight away then you don't have that extra push. Sebastien is driving a very good rally, he's going very well. It is physically possible for me to drive at this pace in this car – but it seems not on this rally."
At Ford Markko Martin's Focus RS WRC03 refused to start after first service this morning. An electrical problem was traced and fixed, but the Estonian was three minutes late arriving at the control and was forced to take 30 seconds of penalties. Francois Duval's car ran without any reliability troubles today, while Mikko Hirvonen
retired his 2002 version early on yesterday with a cam-belt problem.