Citroen team leader Sebastien Loeb further increased his advantage on the Rallye de France-Tour de Corse this morning, to take his run of stage wins to nine from nine.

Loeb, who dominated the first leg on Friday, was unstoppable in his C4 WRC car and the BP Ford Abu Dhabi World Rally Team Focus RS WRC08's were left looking decidedly second best.

Francois Duval was the closest to Seb in SS7 - the 21.88 kilometre Carbuccia test - 2.9 seconds off the pace, while Mikko Hirvonen was 'best of the rest' in SS8, but still 1.2 seconds further back. It was a similar tale in SS9, with Loeb 1.8 seconds up on Duval.

The four-time world champion thus increased his lead by around 10 seconds, up from 32.3 seconds overnight to 41.7 seconds heading into the mid-day service at Port CCI.

"I'm just trying to find the right pace and stick to it. There's no question of slowing down for the time being," said Loeb. "It was really difficult for the tyres [in SS8], which began to move around. That's not a lot of fun, but the car is fine."

Mikko Hirvonen meanwhile remains second, but he and team-mate Francois Duval were again very evenly matched and they finished the loop with just 2.6 seconds seperating them.

"It's been a steady morning and while I'm fighting with Francois, I don't want to take too many risks," said Hirvonen, who has to score to keep his slim championship hopes alive. "I'm driving at 100 percent but I don't want to go over that.

"The stages were slippery and I've been sliding a bit and missed some braking points on the slippery gravel sections. There is more gravel on the stages today and the roads are more abrasive. But I can't catch Loeb by driving alone, he is too fast for me."

"It's incredible how close the times are with Mikko," Duval added. "I expected to be faster than him this morning but he's very quick on asphalt this year.

"The car's settings are perhaps not precise enough for me, but I need more experience of it and I'm not planning any set-up changes. I'm finding it difficult to understand the characteristics of the tyres, but that's purely due to a lack of kilometres with them."

Further down the order the three-way fight for fourth is now a two-way battle between Jari-Matti Latvala and Petter Solberg. Latvala moved passed Petter in SS9 but the gap remains less than 3 seconds.

"My pacenotes weren't exactly correct on the first stage this morning, there was a few places where they were not accurate enough and this affected my confidence but we got over it and put in some good times in the other two stages to move up to fourth," said Jari-Matti.

"I was slightly disappointed after the first stage and knew the next two would be better for me. The third stage was difficult and I think it will be a big challenge on the second pass."

"We tried something different with the car and we thought it should have been a little bit better. It was in some areas, but it was worse in the area we were working on so we lost time and a position to Jari," added Petter.

"I'm quite confident that we know the reason why, so we now go back a little bit the other way and we'll take Jari this afternoon. When we're working on changing things, sometimes we go forwards and sometimes backwards, that's just how it is."

Atkinson was right up there with Petter and Latvala on the first two tests, but a front left puncture in SS9 cost him over a minute and any chance of challenging for P4. He now lies in a lonely sixth.

"We've been pushing quite hard and were pretty close to Jari-Matti and Petter but then caught a rock in a cut on stage nine and got a puncture. We lost a minute and so we're out of the race," said the Aussie. "The idea now is to get the points for sixth as there's a big gap behind us and a big gap in front of us and we're not going to catch them. We will then see if anyone else who's pushing has a problem."

Further down the order Urma Aava has fought his way up to seventh, with Toni Gardemeister eighth and currently on course to pick up the final drivers' point, followed by Brice Tirabassi and Per-Gunnar Andersson.

Matthew Wilson and Mads Ostberg complete the top twelve with Andreas Mikkelsen, Khalid Al-Qassimi and Conrad Rautenbach 13th, 14th and 15th respectively. Rautenbach had been at the front of that group in tenth, but he had to stop and change a puncture in SS9, losing over 2 minutes.

In the Junior World Rally Championship category, Martin Prokop set the pace in all three stages and moved back in front of 'wild card' runner Pierre Campana in Appriccini 1. The Czech now has a 2.6 second lead, with Alessandro Bettega third, 32.2 seconds further back.

Sebastien Ogier is still fourth as he continues to take a steady approach to ensure he finishes and claims the 2008 J-WRC title. The only other contender still in the running for the Junior crown, Aaron Burkart, is fifth.

The action now continues at 14.02 hours local time, when all three of this morning's tests will be repeated - just like on day 1 - to conclude the second day's action.

More to follow then...



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