Loeb moves up into P1 in final test

Citroen team leader Sebastien Loeb heads the pack on Rally Norway following the opening day, having 'moved' ahead of arch rival, Mikko Hirvonen in the very final stage.

Loeb trailed Hirvonen for virtually all of the leg and while the Frenchman did briefly hold P1 this morning, when he set the pace in SS3 - the 8 kilometre-run through Kirkenaer, he slipped back in SS4.

Indeed Mikko beat Seb in five of the day's eight stages and was 7.3 seconds in front going into SS9, when he was uncharacteristically off the pace and only seventh fastest.

That allowed Loeb to take over at the head of the leaderboard and the five-time world champion will now start on Saturday with a 2.6 second cushion.

"I am very pleased. You can really push hard in these conditions. It's nice to be duelling with Mikko and the balance of my Citroën C4 WRC is perfect," said Loeb. "Thanks to the work of everyone on the team, its performance on snow has improved significantly."

Hirvonen meanwhile, at first insisted that he had been pushing in the repeat-run through Kirkenaer and that his lack of pace wasn't a tactical ploy to ensure a better road position on day two. Indeed he said the reason he was unable to go quicker was because his tyres were 'completely finished'.

Interestingly though, the Ford man later contradicted those statements completely in the team's official end of day release and he admitted he had slowed on purpose.

"I knew I would lose time on the [last] stage because it was twisty," he explained. "When we saw how much time we had dropped to Loeb mid-stage, I decided to slow.

"My lead would have been so small that it made sense to take the advantage of starting behind him tomorrow. I can follow his split times and react accordingly. It won't be easy but I like to be the guy chasing and not being chased."

Related Pictures

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Sebastien Loeb (FRA) Daniel Elena (MON), Citroën C4, Citroën Total World Rally Team

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