Citroen team leader Sebastien Loeb continues to lead the Rally d'Italia Sardegna at the end of day two - despite having had to play the 'road sweeper'.

Loeb began the day with a 35.7 second lead and while he was unable to match the BP Ford Abu Dhabi WRT duo of Jari-Matti Latvala and Mikko Hirvonen on the first loop and was 'only' fourth fastest in SS7 and SS9 and third best in SS8, he still managed to increase his overnight lead.

Indeed the Frenchman returned to the mid-day halt at Olbia with his advantage up to 42 seconds. In the afternoon he was again unable to match the Fords, but with two third quickest times and a fourth he minimised the damage of running first on the road and will now take a 29.4 second cushion into the final leg.

"As overnight leaders, we knew we would have more 'road-sweeping' to do," he reflected. "In this morning's conditions, even with good notes, a precise driving style and a perfectly handling car, there was little we could do.

"There wasn't any grip, and our speed was dictated by the terrain. The power-slides were fun, but not ideal against the stopwatch.

"For the second run, I reckoned we would see a repeat of the morning's scenario. I did what I could again and in the end we managed to keep our leading margin at just below the half-minute mark. Tomorrow now promises to be a very interesting day!"

Jari-Matti Latvala meanwhile ended the day in P2 and while he finished up with exactly the same time as his team-mate, Mikko Hirvonen, he lies in front under the tie-break rule - having set a faster time than his fellow countryman in SS1.

Jari enjoyed a perfect day in his Focus, and making the most of his position on the road hauled himself up from seventh, setting the pace in all six stages.

"I was on the limit all day and when I woke up I could not have imagined taking a minute back from Loeb," said Latvala. "Maximum attack, my road position and a perfect car enabled me to do that.

"My plan was solely to recover the time that I lost yesterday when I punctured. I took no risks this afternoon but dropped a little time on the final stage by trying too hard and over-driving. It won't be easy being second on the road tomorrow but I'm looking forward to a good battle."

Hirvonen, who had the unwanted position of being first in the start order on Friday, was delighted to reap the benefits of a lower position today and he moved up from P5 to P3.

He now thinks the weather could play a key part in deciding the outcome of the event: "My position tomorrow is better than Loeb and Jari-Matti, and Seb will need to drive flat out as he will be clearing the road for us. I didn't think first on the road would be so bad here, but I struggled yesterday and Loeb did the same today.

"He has a 29sec lead and that's still a big gap but we have a chance tomorrow. Much will depend on whether it is wet or dry," he confirmed.

Gigi Galli is next up and he set top four times in every single test. His only issues were a small spin in SS8 and a heavy impact on SS10, which cracked the windscreen on his Focus causing visibility issues for the remaining two stages of the day.

The Stobart Ford man now lies 50 seconds off the battle for second and 13.6 seconds up on Dani Sordo in fifth.

"I am very happy with this day as this morning I was worried that our pace would not be fast enough but it was good and we kept things steady during the day," said Gigi.

"The Pirelli tyres have stood up well to the tough conditions and my only mistake today was a small spin where we dropped around 10 seconds. My plan tomorrow is to do what we did today and hopefully we can stay ahead of Sordo; for me this is very important as we don't get a chance to do any testing."

Sordo for his part, like Loeb, lost out running at the front of the pack and the Spaniard just didn't have the confidence to really push. He is now hoping he will be able to make up some time on the final day, when he will have a better start position.

"I gave it everything I could this afternoon, but it wasn't enough. We failed to recover the ground lost to our rivals this morning, but we will be fifth on the road tomorrow and I have every intention of making the most of having a cleaner line to try to finish on the podium," he vowed.

"We haven't thrown in the towel at all. There are five more stages to come and the situation can still be reversed."

Further down the order, Chris Atkinson came in sixth, now over a minute off Sordo, while Henning Solberg is seventh - another 90 seconds further back - and Urmo Aava is eighth and on course for the final drivers' point in his privately entered PH-Sport-run C4 WRC.

Suzuki's Per-Gunnar Andersson is just outside the points in ninth, his best efforts today in the SX4 WRC two eighth quickest times.

Petter Solberg completes the top ten after a difficult day. 'Hollywood' had finished leg one in third, but slipped down to seventh in the opening test when he lost around 20-30 seconds. Worse was to come however, and when he had to stop and change a puncture in SS8, he lost more time - around 5 minutes. Although his times were a lot better in the afternoon and he finished with a fifth fastest time in SS12, he now lies over 7 minutes off the lead.

Of the rest Matthew Wilson is eleventh and while he was happier with the set-up, he failed to set any top ten times. Mads Ostberg trails the Brit, 19.9 seconds further back, followed by Federico Villagra and Conrad Rautenbach in 13th and 14th respectively.

In the Junior World Rally Championhips category Michal Kosciuszko and Martin Prokop are engaged in a fierce fight for the class honours, with the former ending the day fractionally in front in his Suzuki Swift S1600. Alessandro Bettega completes the JWRC provisional podium, with Shaun Gallagher and Aaron Burkart fourth and fifth.

In terms of retirees Toni Gardemeister was most noticeably casualty, going out after the penultimate stage with rear suspension problems. The Finn hopes to re-start on day three, but that has still to be confirmed by Suzuki.

The action now concludes on Sunday and like normal, it is the shortest day of the rally. After leaving Olbia at 07.00, competitors face two loops of two tests south of the town, before a short final stage along the Costa Smeralda coastline, just south of Porto Cervo.

The finish is in Porto Cervo at 14.30 after another 78.57 kilometres of competition [all times local].