Citroen team leader Sebastien Loeb maintained his overnight lead in Argentina on the opening loop on Saturday morning.

Loeb was third fastest in the first stage of the day, the 22.17 kilometre-run through Santa Monica 1, before topping the times in both SS11 and SS12.

The Frenchman then posted the fourth best time in SS13 and returned to the mid-day service area with a 1 minute 32.4 second cushion, more or less what he had started the second leg with.

"It was very rough and very tricky in SS11. My time was good though. I'm satisfied. Everything is ok," said the four-time world champion. "I am not taking any risks - it's wet and soft."

Petter Solberg meanwhile is now second, having posted the quickest time in SS10 and overhauled his Subaru team-mate, Chris Atkinson.

'Hollywood' then beat the Aussie again in SS11, to take the gap to 9.1 seconds, before losing out in the next two stages. The two are now split by just 4.1 seconds.

"It was very muddy and very slippery in the first stage but it was good fun to be so quick there," said Solberg. "The car was working very well, very impressive. It's going well for us, we have no major problems, but it's so tough on this rally. We'll just keep pushing and see what happens.

"I didn't have such a good feeling for the last stages so we lost a bit of time, but we will make some changes during service and we try to get that feeling again. There are so many stages left, and this afternoon on the second passes will be worse, so it will be a hard fight. Anything can happen, but we are in a good position so we will see."

Atkinson concurred that conditions were not the easiest: "It's been a very tricky morning, a bit more difficult than yesterday, and we are still pushing flat out so it's tough. It's unfortunate that we lost a position, but Petter did a very good time on the first stage so that's what happens," he added.

"The car is working very well and we've taken back some time since then but it's close. It is very important for the team that we have both cars in the top three, and we need to make sure we finish like that.

"Obviously it's better for our championship if we can get back second so we will push hard. But we have seen how easy it is to make mistakes in these conditions and the most important thing is to finish."

Gigi Galli finished SS13 in fourth, but he lost a lot of time this morning and slipped a long way behind the Subaru's. Indeed having ended day 1 just 8.8 seconds adrift the gap was more than a minute after Santa Rosa-San Agustin 1. He also finished that test with smoke pouring from his Focus RS WRC and while he made it back to service he was subsequently forced to retire from the leg.

Dani Sordo thus moves up to fourth, while Matthew Wilson and Federico Villagra are fifth and sixth respectively, the latter having slipped back after having to stop a change a wheel in SS10 due to a puncture.

BP Ford Abu Dhabi's Jari-Matti Latvala and Conrad Rautenbach rounded out the points' scorers, while Production WRC leader, Andreas Aigner is ninth, 1 minute 33.5 seconds up on his closest rival, Sebastian Beltran, who completes the top ten.

Of the rest, Toni Gardemeister, Mikko Hirvonen, Henning Solberg and Per-Gunnar Andersson all re-started this morning under the SupeRally format after their problems on day 1. Gardemeister ended the loop in 15th, with Mikko 16th, Henning 18th and P-G 26th. Luis-Perez Companc was unable to re-join the fold after sliding off into a ditch in SS8 on Friday.

The action now resumes at 14.25 hours local time, when all four of this morning's tests will be repeated. The leg concludes with a second pass through the short Estadio Cordoba super special stage.

More to follow later...

 

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