Citroen's Sebastien Loeb and Subaru's Petter Solberg remain locked in the battle for the lead of the Telstra Rally Australia following the second loop of stages, that make up leg two.

In SS15 Loeb and Solberg again set the pace, with the Norwegian taking the win this time. Loeb however wasn't far behind, and although the gap on the leader board fell to 1.1 sec, the Frenchman still clung to the lead.

Markko Martin was third fastest over the high-speed forest tracks, and this was enough to move into fourth overall ahead of Tommi Makinen who dropped to fifth.

In perfect rallying conditions, and more than a minute clear of the rest of the competition, Loeb and Solberg continued to trade times on Helena East 2 [SS16]. Loeb had the edge on this occasion though and extended his lead to 2.7 sec. His time through the repeated Helena East stage was almost 15 seconds quicker than the morning when it was run at SS13.

Elsewhere in the top-ten, Colin McRae dropped his Citroen team-mate Carlos Sainz from sixth, when a pace note misunderstanding cost the Spaniard 10 secs.

SS17 was another close run thing, and another win for Loeb. Solberg was 0.3 sec back in second while the third-fastest drive came from Martin - a further 6.3 sec back. McRae closed the gap on fifth overall Makinen, who was hampered by the suspension damage sustained on the previous stage, while Sainz closed the gap on McRae from five to three seconds.

The final proper stage of the day - Helena South [SS18] - brought another stage win for Loeb, and meant that the Citroen driver and Solberg shared four wins apiece. Over the day the pair had seemed inseparable, and after ten forest stages, Loeb had increased his winning margin over Solberg by just 1.5 seconds - it currently stands at 5.4 secs.

McRae meanwhile was in full flight on SS18 and finished third fastest. The performance was enough to take fifth place from Makinen on the final stage before Subaru technicians could fix his car's suspension.

Leg two now concludes with two runs over the Perth City Super Special - the first beginning at 19.40 local time [12.40pm BST].

 

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