Citroen's Dani Sordo has ended the second day of the Repco Rally Australia at the head of the pack, fractionally in front of Sebastien Loeb
and Mikko Hirvonen
after tactics came into play late on.
Jari-Matti Latvala had led following the first leg on Friday, however he struggled running first on the road and slipped back this afternoon, when he was overhauled by Loeb in SS21, the 8.59 kilometre CTEK West test.
Loeb then increased his lead to 11.1 seconds in SS22, before deliberately slowing in the last 'proper' test, which locked in the starting order for the final leg. Sordo also opted to ease off in SS23, something that initially handed Hirvonen the lead. Mikko will now have to play the 'road sweeper' on Sunday and clear the loose gravel for those behind, potentially leaving a cleaner and quicker line.
However, Hirvonen lost P1 right at the end of the leg, when he was 'passed' by Sordo following the two Tweed super specials. He now trails the Spaniard by just 0.1 seconds, and remarkably, so too does Loeb.
"It's so close, it is incredible," said Hirvonen. "The final leg is the longest of the rally, which is good because it means there are a lot of kilometres in which to fight for the win. I tried to push as hard as possible this afternoon, but I tried too hard because I made some small mistakes.
"I didn't want to be first on the road tomorrow but there was nothing I could do about it and it will be tough trying to win from that position if conditions are dry. However, if it is wet, it could be perfect."
Loeb meanwhile said he had no alternative but to ease off in SS23, given how much time he would have potentially lost running first in the order.
"We had to do it," confirmed the Frenchman. "I would have had no chance [to win] clearing the road. It's not something I like, but the regulations force us to use this sort of strategy.
"It's frustrating to spend all day driving flat out only to end up dropping time purposely. At the end of the day, though, I think I'm in a good position now going into the longest leg of the rally."