After the close battle throughout day one, it was a case of normal service being resumed on day two of Rally Argentina as Sebastien Loeb put himself firmly in control of the fifth round of the WRC season.
Loeb went into the second day of the event in third place having spent the opening leg sweeping the road for the cars behind – with two stalls on the final stage of day one also contributing to him playing catch-up going into Saturday's nine stages.
The Frenchman took little time to make his move and had hit the front by lunchtime after setting the pace on each of the morning's four stages and his hopes of victory were aided when Mikko Hirvonen was forced to retire from the leg.
Hirvonen had held second after following Loeb in passing overnight leader Dani Sordo during the morning tests, but the quickest time on SS14 was followed by overheating issues on his Ford Focus on SS15. Despite nursing his car to the end of the stage, Hirvonen was forced to call it a day on the road section leading to SS16.
The retirement of the Ford man leaves Loeb with a comfortable lead after a day where he won six of the nine stages, with his advantage being just under a minute to Sordo, who was unable to match the pace of his team leader.
The Spaniard set one quickest stage time, albeit on the short Super Special test in Cordoba, and is comfortable in second place ahead of Jari-Matti Latvala, who progressed up the order into a podium position but is focused on making the finish and is unlikely to push too hard to catch Sordo for fear of making a mistake. Latvala's only real problem during the day came on the opening stage when he lost the bonnet on his Focus after the clips holding it down came loose.
Latvala is under little pressure from behind after Petter Solberg slipped back following his encouraging performance on day one. The higher altitude of the stages on the second leg emphasised the lack of power of his Citroen Xsara when compared to the more modern machinery the Norwegian is battling against, while the former champion also had to contend with a puncture on the first stage of the afternoon. A similar issue befell brother Henning, who sits one place further back in fifth.
One battle that is likely to be decided on the final day is for sixth place, with Federico Villagra set to take an 18 second advantage over Matthew Wilson into day three, while Hirvonen could keep his record of points scoring finishes going if Ford can restart him under SupeRally from eighth place.
Neither Citroen Junior Team driver was running at the end of the day, with Conrad Rautenbach crashing out on SS12 and Sebastien Ogier then being forced out with damper failure following SS15.