Citroen driver Sebastien Loeb
remains in control of Rallye Catalunya at the end of leg two of the penultimate round of this year's FIA World Rally Championship.
The Frenchman suffered brake problems aboard his Xsara through the final loop of three stages, on a day which once again featured bright and sunny weather on the roads around Vic, north of the rally's base in Lloret de Mar.
Those brake troubles, combined with a big push from Ford's Markko Martin, meant his advantage at the head of the field was reduced from a 26.2 seconds at the end of leg one to 20.8 seconds at the end of today's eight stages.
Martin has spent the day in the thick of an almighty fight with Gilles Panizzi. Last year's winner made it into second position after the day's fourth test – but relinquished the runners-up spot on the very next stage. Fastest times on two of the final three of today's stages was enough for the Estonian to ease his way clear of the Peugeot, ensuring he starts the final day with a 15.9-second advantage over Panizzi.
Today has been a difficult one for local hero Carlos Sainz. He altered the suspension set-up of his Xsara at first service this morning and struggled to match the times of the leading bunch through the day's first three stages. He dropped back to fourth position and spent the day trying to regain the confidence he'd lost in the car.
Colin McRae's Xsara WRC was hit by brake problems this morning, but the remainder of the Citroen
pack ran without technical fault.
Loeb maintained his status as rally leader throughout the second leg, but the Frenchman admitted he was still pushing as hard as he dared, without taking too many big risks, to keep the gap stable between himself and the Martin/Panizzi fight for second place.
"Markko and Gilles are pushing really hard – they have the big fight – when they are going so hard they are setting good times," said Loeb, "I'm having to work very hard to keep my lead. The stages today have been okay; the first one this morning [Olost] was really fast."
The second leg wasn't quite such a success for Loeb's team-mate and overnight runner up, Carlos Sainz. Sainz had taken different suspension settings for the first loop of three stages this morning, and instantly regretted his decision. The alterations had made the usually rock-solid Xsara nervous and harder to drive. Sainz slipped back to fourth on the first run through Olost – and remained there for the rest of the day.