BP Ford Abu Dhabi's Mikko Hirvonen made the most of Friday night's 'tactical manoeuvre' to re-take the lead on the Rally of Turkey this morning and then build a very solid lead.

Hirvonen had led for most of opening leg, until he eased off in the final stage to ensure he wouldn't have to sweep the roads on day two. That decision, while not entirely uncontroversial, left the Finn running fifth in the order on Saturday and with cleaner stages he exploited it from the off.

Indeed he set the pace in both stages on the first loop to haul himself into the lead, 2.9 seconds up on his team-mate, Jari-Matti Latvala.

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Mikko then increased that cushion four-fold in the middle loop, before gaining more time in the final three stages. He finally finished the day 16 seconds up Latvala - and almost 35 seconds up on his chief championship rival, Citroen's Sebastien Loeb.

Despite that cushion though, Mikko conceded that he had hoped it would be bigger: "Thirty-four seconds over Loeb is good but 40sec would have been comfortable," he noted. "Both Jari-Matti and Loeb will be tough to beat tomorrow but I'm more worried about Jari-Matti.

"I have to realistic though. I came here to regain the championship lead and that's my main aim for tomorrow. That's more important to me than winning this rally. I'm first on the road tomorrow so all I can do is drive flat out and hope for the best."

Latvala meanwhile tried to keep up, but on the whole he was unable to match Hirvonen - although he did beat him in SS14 this afternoon, when he posted his third quickest time of the event.

"Tomorrow will have lots of hard driving, maximum concentration and plenty of effort to try to keep Loeb behind," said Jari. "I'm both a team-mate and competitor with Mikko and I would like to win this rally. I'm not here just to cruise but I must also remember that I mustn't put the car off the road.

"Mikko will be first in the start order so it won't be easy for him while Loeb will attack from behind and will be very fast. The long stage will be tough for me as I will only have Mikko's line to follow."

Sebastien Loeb rounds out the top three and while he was somewhat frustrated to be first on the road again he still set some good times. Indeed he was in the top-five in every single stage, joint quickest with Hirvonen in the final 'proper' test of the day. He also topped the times again in the repeat run through the short Antalya SSS, which kicked off the event on Thursday evening.

"Everybody knows how difficult it is to run first on the road. But there is no point in moaning about it, or criticising the regulations or the tactics of our rivals. The only answer was to drive as fast as possible," said Seb.

"Given the road order and the advantage which that gives our opponents, I'm actually surprised by how small the gaps are. We've done all we can to keep the gaps as small as possible and try to be in a position to challenge for victory tomorrow. We are now 34.2 seconds behind the leaders, with 67 kilometres of stages still to come. It won't be easy, but this rally isn't over yet."

Henning Solberg was next up, fourth in his Stobart Ford Focus, having slipped back from second overnight. The Norwegian had to switch to a new gearbox today and took some time to adapt to it. He now lies over 1.5 minutes off the final place on the rostrum.

"We are in a good position at the moment and I am going to try my best to remain here tomorrow but I will have to be careful of Dani coming up behind me," he reflected. "We had to change the gearbox in my car last night and I am very used to the old one so it has taken a little bit to get used to the new one today but OK everything is good with the car and we have kept it on the road and out of trouble which is the main thing."

Further down the order Dani Sordo is fifth and the Spaniard was on a charge during Saturday's seven stages. He had finished day one in eighth, after a puncture in SS7 dropped him from P5. He fought back though and soon passed Matthew Wilson for seventh, before overhauling Petter Solberg in SS14, as well as gaining a place when Gigi Galli had turbo issues.

The Citroen #2 now lies just 6.6 seconds off Henning and looks good to challenge for fourth. His only issue was another puncture in SS11, but that cost him only 30 seconds.

"Our objective today was to try to home in on the drivers ahead of us in the overnight order," he said. "We immediately found a good pace and I stayed focused. We're now fifth, just a few seconds off fourth place, and there's still along way to go. If I can repeat the same pace tomorrow, I think a good result is possible."

Petter Solberg trails the #2 Citroen, with Matthew Wilson seventh in the 'third' Stobart Ford entry. Wilson still didn't feel 100 per cent well today, but nevertheless set some pretty good times, including a seventh best time in SS14.

Gigi Galli rounds out the points' scorers having slipped back from third with turbo problems, which cost him around 4 minutes in Silyon 2 and further time in the final loop. He is now over 4.5 minutes off Seb in third place.

The Italian also finished the leg plagued with fatigue as a result of the hot and dusty conditions. By final service he required medical attention to check the extent of his suspected dehydration and exhaustion.

"This has been a really hard day of rallying and I'm exhausted now at the end," he noted. "For sure I'm disappointed with the problem today and not to be able to challenge for a podium again and it's strange that we had the same problem on the same stage a few years ago. But this is rallying and you cannot predict what will happen."

Citroen privateer Conrad Rautenbach is ninth, with Munchi's Ford World Rally Team duo Federico Villagra and Barry Clark tenth and eleventh, the latter taking in what is only his second event with a Focus WRC. Clark continued to try and find his feet on day two, his best efforts - two twelfth quickest times in SS14 and SS16.

In the FIA Production Car World Rally Championship category Andreas Aigner has hung onto the lead and he is now more than a minute up on Patrik Sandell's Peugeot 207 S2000. Sandell had been a lot closer until a driveshaft issue in SS15 dropped him back.

Mirco Baldacci completes the PWRC top three, albeit nearly 3 minutes off Sandell, followed by Evgeniy Vertunov and Uwe Nittel, who are split by just 4.6 seconds in the battle for P4.

As for retirements, two major names went out, namely Suzuki duo Toni Gardemeister and Per-Gunnar Andersson. P-G stopped in the second test of the day with an electrical problem, while Gardemeister retired in the same test with a broken radiator. Neither will re-start on Sunday.

In contrast, Subaru's Chris Atkinson and Citroen privateer Urmo Aava both took advantage of the SupeRally to re-join the fold today, following the suspension problems that claimed them on day 1. Atkinson ended the day 20th, while Aava is 25th. Chris had a number of issues with electrical and hydraulic problems costing him time.

The action now concludes on Sunday and the final day is the shortest of the event and includes just three stages. It is no less tough than the previous two days however and after leaving Kemer at 08.30 hours [local time], drivers tackle the monster 31.03 kilometre Olympos test - the longest of the event - twice. The two runs through Olympos - as SS17 and SS19 - are split by the 5.50 km Camyuva test. The finish is in Kemer at 14.50 hours [local time].