Loeb in control in Corsica
8 April 2006
Reigning world champion, Sebastien Loeb doubled his advantage at the top of the field following the second leg of the Rallye de France-Tour de Corse on Saturday - the fifth round in the 2006 FIA World Rally Championship.
The Frenchman had a trouble-free day, setting the quickest times through SS5 and SS7, while he was third through SS6 and second through SS8.
Throughout the day though he was always quicker than Marcus Gronholm, who remains his nearest rival and as such his lead went up from 19.9 seconds to 39.7 seconds heading into the final leg. He now looks well placed to take his third win of the season with Kronos Citroen and his second on the trot on his home event, barring any mishaps on Sunday.
Gronholm meanwhile has been able to match the Frenchman's pace and has been unhappy with the feeling with his BP Ford Focus. Despite that though he managed to set two top three stages times and was fourth through the other two and remains comfortably in second, a good minute up on Daniel Sordo.
Sordo took third spot from Mikko Hirvonen on the final test of the day, after he won the stage and was 7.9 seconds quicker than the Finn. Indeed the Spaniard has been right up there all day, second quickest through the other three tests as he continued to climb up the leaderboard following electrical problems on the first stage on Friday.
Hirvonen has also enjoyed a good day, winning SS6, and with just 5.7 seconds separating them, the battle for the final place on the podium looks set to be extremely tight.
Further down the pack, Alex Bengue dropped from third to fifth, as he struggled with understeer. Indeed he is now 44.3 seconds off Hirvonen, while a spin in the final stage, dropped him closer to Xavier Pons in sixth, just 8 seconds between the two.
OMV Peugeot driver, Manfred Stohl is seventh, the Austrian happy with his 307, while Stephane Sarrazin rounds out the provisional points scorers, the best of the Subaru's.
Of the rest, Gigi Galli and Jan Kopecky completed the top ten, followed by Subaru team leader, Petter Solberg and Harri Rovanpera, who is making his debut with the Red Bull Skoda squad on this event.
A number of 'works' drivers hit problems and the first loop proved particularly troublesome, with both Stobart VK Ford's retiring from the leg as well as Andreas Aigner's Red Bull Skoda.
Aigner stopped when he hit a bridge near the start of SS5 and lost a wheel, while Matthew Wilson's day finished in the same test when his Focus slid off the road and into a ditch 5km from the off. Latvala also had problems and after ending leg 1 in seventh, went off the road in SS6, 10km from the stage end and was unable to rejoin.
Francois Duval joined those three on the sidelines this afternoon, when his First Motorsport Skoda Fabia WRC stopped in the final test. Whether or not these runners will be able to re-start Sunday under the SupeRally format has yet to be confirmed.
In the Junior WRC, Urmo Aava now leads in his Suzuki Swift. He inherited the lead on SS7, after Kris Meeke had mechanical problems. Brice Tirabassi is second 3 minutes behind Aava, while Conrad Rautenbach, Julien Pressac and Jozef Beres complete the top five. If Meeke can re-start tomorrow he will do so from sixth place, just over 4 minutes off a possible podium place.
The action now resumes on Sunday, with four more tests - the first beginning at 08.08 hours local time.