Multiple World Rally champion Sebastien Loeb
has ended the second day of the Rally of Great Britain having increased his overnight lead to a comfortable 30.2 seconds.
Loeb, who began the day just 5.3 seconds up on his championship rival, Mikko Hirvonen, saw his advantage cut to 2.9 seconds in the opening test, the 35.72 km Rhondda 1. However, the Frenchman was quickest in SS8 and SS9, something that allowed him to stretch his lead to 25 seconds heading into the mid-day halt in Cardiff.
This afternoon Loeb again lost out in Rhondda, but only by 2.1 seconds and with Seb repeating his success in Crychan and Halfway, he ended proceedings just over half a minute ahead.
Loeb now looks well placed to take the spoils on Sunday - and secure the 2009 WRC drivers' title for a record sixth time.
"I am really happy," said Loeb. "It's been a really good day, especially with those two stages in the morning [when Hirvonen struggled]. We have had a very good drive with no mistakes, and we are here with a good lead. We are ready for tomorrow."
Hirvonen meanwhile was left cursing what happened in SS8 and SS9, when he conceded 20 seconds and in all likelihood the title. The Finn had blamed technical problems for his lack of pack in Crychan 1 and Halfway 1, but Ford's engineers could find nothing wrong with his Focus Rs WRC in service D.
"It's definitely not been a good day and I don't understand why it hasn't gone as I'd hoped," Hirvonen stated. "Tomorrow is the last day of this year as far as I am concerned so I will just have to go flat out and see what happens."
Dani Sordo is next up, the Spaniard moving in front of Petter Solberg
this morning in SS7 when the Norwegian had windscreen wiper issues.
Sordo now lies 24 seconds in front, and despite a minor problem in the final test, he was still third fastest: "That was really hard," said Citroen's #2. "I lost some time at the end of the [final] stage but the car still felt really nice and fast."
Solberg however was left ruing what might have been: "If it wasn't for the wipers this morning it could have been a really good day," 'Hollywood' continued. "On this last stage I was actually faster than Loeb but then lost some time after a small mistake. But I am definitely getting faster all the time."