24 January 2004
Loeb in control at end of day two.
Reigning World Champion Petter Solberg has had an incident-free day and climbs to fifth for Subaru, while Freddy Loix rounds off the top six.
'Hollywood' normally accustomed to fighting for the victory on rallies, said he wasn't disappointed with his day.
"Actually, I'm quite happy and have the chance of some good points," said the Norwegian, "There wasn't really much more I could do today, but I'm going to see what I can do tomorrow and hope to make some more places."
Carlos Sainz [Citroen] and Mikko Hirvonen [Subaru] were the leading casualties of the day, joining amongst others Mitsubishi's Gianluigi Galli, who retired yesterday.
Sainz took a front wheel off in SS9 while Hirvonen was also forced onto the sidelines in the same test after suffering rear end damage after a spin.
Sainz explained: "At the start of the climb up to the Bleine Pass, the road was just damp. There was snow on the sides of the road, and I suppose that the spectators had spread it over the road as they went by. I came across a brown patch, half snow, half mud, which was not in my pacenotes. I went straight, and hit the wall. The front right wheel was too badly damaged to allow me to continue."
Hirvonen was at a loss to explain why he had gone off.
He added: "It's a real mystery. I was going steadily to get experience of the rally, and wasn't pushing hard at all. I can understand slipping off the road when conditions are difficult, but I went off on one of the easiest corners of the rally. It was slow speed, second or third gear, and a totally dry road. Maybe I heard the pace note the wrong way, I'm not sure, it's just unbelievable. Of course I'm disappointed, but I suppose you have to accept that from time to time these things just happen in rallying. I'm going to study the on-board film to see if that provides any answers, then it's a case of moving on and trying for a better result in Sweden."
Of the rest, only 22 competitors remain, 34 started today, while 43 started in total on Friday, meaning the field has been decimated by nearly 50 per cent.
Leading the rest after Loix is Mitsubishi's Gilles Panizzi. The team have been pleased today with the performance of the Frenchman and the new Lancer WRC04.
Team boss, Sven Quandt commented: "We have made a big step forward compared to yesterday. The car is now running better and better, as you can see from the stage times, and we are closer to our rivals."
After Panizzi, privateers' Anthony Warmbold, Olivier Burri and Josef Beres completed the top ten, driving a Ford, Subaru and Hyundai respectively.
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