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Loeb pulls out slim lead on day two.


The fight for the lead of this eighth round of the FIA World Rally Championship went right down to this evening's superspecial stage in St Wendel, after a scintillating day's action on ADAC Rallye Deutschland.

Citroen Xsara WRC driver Sebastien Loeb and Peugeot's Marcus Gronholm spent today locked in a furious battle for supremacy. The Frenchman emerged at the head of the field after a trouble-free day in his car.

Gronholm's only problem had been a poor choice of tyres, but following his steady start to this event yesterday, the reigning world champion was happy to be right back in the thick of the battle for ten points.

The weather certainly played its part in a fascinating day, with rain through the middle stages causing problems for many of the crews who had elected to take slick tyres. The reverse was the case later in the day, when the majority of crews went into the final loop of stages on intermediates, only for the expected rain to hold off - until the superspecial.

Markko Martin made the most of his tyre choice to place his Ford Focus RS WRC03 in an amazing third. His fightback from an overnight tenth place was one of the talking points of the day.

More changeable weather is expected for the third and final leg of this Trier-based event tomorrow.

Citroen's Philippe Bugalski retired today after SS10 with turbo problems. The remaining three Xsara WRCs ran without fault for this second leg of the event.

Loeb moved into the lead when he posted fastest time on the second run at the Erzweiler stage. The Frenchman had eased his way past Richard Burns for second on the previous stage. Loeb spent the remaining three stages of the day trading seconds with Marcus Gronholm.

Colin McRae was also in the middle of a big scrap with Burns and Markko Martin for third place, he eventually ended the day fourth. Carlos Sainz was further down the leaderboard, not particularly enjoying himself on this event. The Spaniard was keeping out of trouble, however, in a points-scoring place and moving ahead of Francois Duval for sixth place on the final stage of the day.

Loeb said: ''I preferred it when the stages were dry today, but the times weren't so bad in the rain. For all four of the Baumholder stages today we have been pushing as hard as we can. We hit something with a front-left tyre on stage 13, we had a really big vibration after that.''



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