Citroen team leader, Sebastien Loeb convincingly cemented his place at the top of leader-board on Saturday during the second leg of the Rallye de France-Tour de Corse.
Loeb began the day by topping the times in SS7 - 2.7 seconds up on Marcus Gronholm, who was 'best of the rest'. The Frenchman then set another top time in SS8, 3.8 seconds up on Gronholm, before taking his sixth stage win on the trot in SS9, to gain another 1.3 seconds on his chief championship rival.
Seb thus returned to the mid-day service area having increased his advantage from 4.8 seconds at the start of the day to 12.6 seconds going into the lunch time halt.
In the afternoon he continued to pull away and while his team-mate, Daniel Sordo won SS10, Loeb was only 0.3 seconds slower - and significantly 4.4 seconds up on Gronholm. The Citroen #1 driver then took another two stage wins in SS11 and SS12 and finished the day having taking five wins from six.
He will now take a comfortable 27.5 second advantage into the third and final day and is well set to take his third win in succession on his home event: “It's been a fantastic day and I've fought hard to stretch my advantage,” said Loeb. “This should hopefully mean that I need to take fewer risks tomorrow.”
Gronholm for his part had no answer to Seb's pace and despite pushing as hard as he could he had to settle for second best in all the tests, bar SS10. That allowed him to pull away from Sordo in third, but also meant he was unable to challenge for the lead.
“Catching Loeb is mission impossible,” said the Finn. "I've had a few gear selection problems in this last test too.”
Sordo meanwhile struggled for grip in SS8 and SS9 this morning and consequently was unable to close on Gronholm. Indeed the margin between them increased three-fold on the first loop going up from around 14 seconds last night to 35 seconds going into service D.
Although Dani felt more comfortable in the afternoon he was unable to cut the deficit that much and finished 30.7 seconds adrift of the runners-up spot: “I'm going to try and stay in touch with Gronholm on Sunday to keep the pressure on him,” Dani vowed.
Further down the order, Francois Duval set some strong times in his OMV Kronos-run Citroen Xsara WRC, posting the third best time in Carbuccia and then two fourth best efforts in SS8 and SS9. The Belgian lost time though in the final two stages, due to gearbox and brake issues and was forced to retire on the final road section due mechanical problems.