Citroen team leader Sebastien Loeb came through a dramatic second day of the Acropolis Rally of Greece still on top - despite picking up a puncture this morning and dropping behind his team-mate Daniel Sordo.

Loeb started the second day 15.7 seconds up on Sordo, but saw his advantage cut nearly in half on the opening 32.16 kilometre Aghii Theodori test, the longest and roughest of the rally.

The Frenchman, who was running first on the road, was only sixth quickest in SS8 and was clearly suffering as he swept away the loose gravel to leave a faster and cleaner line for those behind.

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Seb lost even more time in SS9 however, when he had a left rear puncture around halfway through, something that cost him 30 seconds and dropped him behind Sordo in the sister C4 WRC. Despite setting the second best time in SS10, Loeb finished the morning loop on the back-foot, 16.4 seconds off P1.

On the repeat run this afternoon the pendulum swung the other way and with Sordo picking up a puncture in each test, Loeb was bumped back up into the lead, regaining top spot in SS12 and then concluding the leg almost 30 seconds up on his closest rival.

"It was a hot and rough day and it hasn't been easy. Luckily, the car is OK, but in the last stages we had to drive slowly," said Loeb.

"We didn't push. It was hard for the tyres and very rough. I was not happy with the car in SS11. It was bouncing so much I thought the suspension was broken. It is going to be a difficult day tomorrow [Sunday] since I will be cleaning the road again."

Subaru's Petter Solberg meanwhile is on course for the runners-up spot in the new Impreza WRC2008, which is making its debut in the World Rally Championship this weekend. Petter took it carefully during the day but still set some very, very competitive times, including a second fastest effort in SS11, plus two third fastest times and two fourths.

"I am very happy," said 'Hollywood'. "We drove very carefully. The day has been good for us. We will have the same tactic tomorrow, because we don't want to take any risks. We just need to finish. We faced no major problems."

Petter's brother Henning was third and he finished proceedings another 36.6 seconds adrift. Like all the runners he found conditions tough - but luckily for him he managed to avoid the carnage and get his Stobart Ford Focus back to service, avoiding rocks which he said were as big as 'modern televisions or like washing machines'.

"I'm in third, can you believe it? I was very excited on the last stage and was praying my car would make it through with no problem," he reflected. "It's been a fantastic day for me and the conditions we faced on those three stages were the worst I have seen for a while.

"We had a small problem with the engine which dropped us some time and played with my concentration but to end the day on the podium is a great result and hopefully we can maintain this through tomorrow."

Further down the order Mikko Hirvonen is fourth and while he lost around 2.5 minutes this morning in SS9 and SS10 with brake and suspension problems, he had a slightly less traumatic afternoon, topping the times in SS11 and SS13 - even though he finished the last two stages with his rear bump on fire from the heat of the exhaust.

"I've never driven a rally this rough," said Mikko. "I saved the car and tyres this afternoon to come home in one piece. I'm sure everyone will take it easier tomorrow and not take risks. The stages are in better condition and my aim is simply to finish, not to attack."

Urma Aava completes the top five in his privately entered C4 WRC and while a puncture dropped him from fifth to 13th this morning, he fought his way back and even took his second stage win of the event in Pissia 2. The Estonian lies over a minute off Hirvonen and 11.2 seconds off Britain's Matthew Wilson in sixth.

"The second loop was very good," noted Aava. "We will try to keep the same pace tomorrow and avoid problems."

Dani Sordo ended up in seventh, with punctures in SS11, SS12 and SS13 costing him dear. It was the last test of the day though, that was especially punishing and he finished it on three wheels - and with no spares left, conceded nearly 4.5 minutes.

"I had a front tyre problem and then our rear left tyre destroyed itself, so I had no more spare tyres left," he explained. "It was difficult to get back to the service."

BP Ford Abu Dhabi's Jari-Matti Latvala completes the provisional points' scorers in eighth, nearly 9 minutes off the lead after turbo problems this afternoon.

"I was at the start of the first stage this afternoon with the car in launch control mode when I heard a noise like pressure being released," explained the Finn. "The boost pipe from the turbo had burst and I had to drive all three stages with no boost. I tried to fix it after the first stage but it blew off again. I was unlucky but this rally hasn't been kind to me."

Of the rest Conrad Rautenbach is ninth, one place outside the points, followed by Toni Gardemeister, who had engine problems this afternoon and slipped further and further back.

The Suzuki man was not happy: "It was a bad day. Now we have a problem with the engine and running on three cylinders. At least we made it to here. We were moving very slowly because we had no power from the engine to push."

In total five 'works' drivers were forced out on day two with Subaru's Chris Atkinson and Munchi's 'guest' driver Aris Vovos retiring on the opening loop. Atkinson was the first to go, unable to start SS9 due to an electrical problem, while Vovos went out in that test with steering issues.

In the afternoon SupeRally man Gigi Galli joined them on the sidelines when he suffered hydraulic problems before SS11 and then Federico Villagra and Per-Gunnar Andersson added their names to the list of casualties, both damaging the suspension on their cars on the repeat run through Aghill Theodori 2.

In the Production Car World Rally Championship, Juho Hanninen had taken over at the top this morning, but he had problem in SS11 and was forced out. That handed Andreas Aigner the lead and the Austrian finished the leg over 2 minutes up on Mirco Baldacci.

Bernardo Sousa completes the PWRC top three in the other Red Bull Rally Team Mitsubishi followed by Martin Rauam and Fumio Nutahara, in fourth and fifth respectively.

In total eleven PWRC runners had problems, seven finishing the day thanks to the SupeRally while four retired for good, including Toshi Ari (suspension damage in SS9) and Nasser Al-Attiyah (suspension damage in SS9).

The event now concludes on Sunday and the final day offers another 100 kilometres or so of gruelling competition. After starting at 05.50, drivers tackle two identical loops of three stages north-west of Athens before a second pass over the Tatoi super special stage on the edge of the service park. The finish takes place there at 15.03 [all times local].