number one driver, Sebastien Loeb
remains firmly in control on the Rallye Deutschland, the ninth round in the 2006 FIA World Rally Championship, following the second leg of the event on Saturday.
Loeb began the day with a 40-odd second lead and although he saw that cut back in the first loop to 27 seconds, after being outpaced by his team-mate, Daniel Sordo, the Frenchman more or less maintained that cushion in SS11 and SS12, before increasing it in the final loop. Loeb ended the leg 34.3 seconds in front and just for good measure, put in the best time on the last stage, the OMV super-special in St Wendel.
He now goes into the final leg, which includes just four stages and a total competitive distance of 68.19 km, all but certain to take the victory, his fifth in succession on the Rallye Deutschland and one that will help stretch his lead at the top of the drivers' championship.
Sordo meanwhile put in a charge early on this morning, before easing off as the day progressed. The Spaniard no doubt aware that Kronos would dearly love to take the maximum manufacturers' points, in order to strengthen their position in the constructors'. Sordo set a string of good times and won SS10, before taking his foot of the gas in the final loop.
Marcus Gronholm completes the provisional podium, having overhauled Toni Gardemeister in SS12 despite hitting a rock and injuring his hand - he was incidentally fastest through that stage. The BP Ford
team leader admitted he was not happy this morning, but as the roads dried out, so his confidence improved and he finished the day around 25 seconds up on Gardemeister's Xsara.
Furtherdown the field, Mikko Hirvonen
is fifth in the second BP Ford, having climbed up the leaderboard. His only problem came in SS12 when he had a problem with one of his tyres which caused a bad vibration on the right-hand side of his Focus.
OMV's Manfred Stohl is next up, the Austrian had problems with the clutch and gearbox on his Peugeot 307 at the end of SS10, before opting for the wrong tyres in the middle loop.
Andreas Aigner maintained his form from Friday and is still on course to score points, he moved up on place and once again set some good stages time - five times in the top ten and he was even 5th quickest through SS12 in his Red Bull-backed Skoda Fabia WRC.
Stephane Sarrazin leads the way for the Subaru World Rally team, the Frenchman getting the better of his team-mate, Chris Atkinson
in SS10. Atkinson has dropped down the order and was also overhauled by Jan Kopecky, who surprised many by actually topping the times in SS9 and SS14 – no mean feat when you consider he is in a Skoda Fabia WRC.