Sebastien Loeb will lead into the second day of Rally d'Italia Sardegna after maintaining his advantage through the afternoon loop of stages on Friday.

Loeb held a slender lead over Mikko Hirvonen heading into the second loop of the day but was able to extend his lead when the Ford driver ran wide on SS7 and picked up a right rear puncture.

That dropped the Finn down to fourth place, although he recovered to third in the final stage of the day when Sebastien Ogier slowed to gain a better road position.

Loeb's lead is now 33.2secs over Petter Solberg, who was left to rue the mechanical problems he faced during the morning loop, with Hirvonen and Ogier nearly a minute behind.

"I'm a bit surprised to have been in the groove today," said Loeb. "The gaps have opened up but I reckon that everybody still has a chance of winning. Sweeping will have more influence tomorrow and theoretically our lead isn't enough to stay in front. If we manage to keep up the same pace as today, we'll give our rivals a run for their money!"

Mads Ostberg sits fifth in the leading Stobart Ford despite suffering with brake problems and is just over ten seconds away from the podium, although fellow Stobart drivers Evgeny Novikov and Henning Solberg hit problems in stage seven. Novikov had held a podium place earlier in the day before rolling out of the event.

Dani Sordo is an impressive sixth for Mini ahead of SWRC leader Ott Tanak, with Matthew Wilson, Martin Prokop and Juho Hanninen rounding out the top ten.

"We have finished today's stages without any problems so this is a very good point," said Sordo. "At the end the car got better and better and I am really happy with it, but we started really carefully.

"The first stage of the day was a little bit different to the others as it was like those in New Zealand. The others were really slippery and narrow. The plan is to continue tomorrow the same way to learn more about the car, push a bit and change just a few small things."

Rally d'Italia Sardegna: Overall standings after Stage 8 (Top 10):

1. Sebastien LoebCitroen Total WRT DS3 WRC1hr 27mins 47.0secs M
2. Petter SolbergPSWRT Citroen DS3 WRC+00mins 33.2secs M
3. Mikko HirvonenFord Abu Dhabi WRT Fiesta RS WRC+00mins 53.1secs M
4. Sebastien OgierCitroen Total WRT DS3 WRC+00mins 55.5secs M
5. Mads Ostberg M-Sport Stobart Ford Fiesta RS WRC+01mins 04.7secs M
6. Dani SordoMini WRC Team John Cooper Works+01mins 33.2secs M
7. Ott TanakFord Fiesta S2000+02mins 36.0secs S
8. Matthew WilsonM-Sport Stobart Ford Fiesta RS WRC+02mins 54.4secs A0
9. Martin ProkopCzech Ford National Fiesta S2000+03mins 01.7secs S
10. Juho HanninenRed Bull Skoda Fabia S2000+03mins 19.8secs S

Others:

11. Armindo AraujoMotorsport Italia Mini John Cooper Works+04mins 30.1secs A0
12. Khalid Al-QassimiTeam Abu Dhabi Fiesta RS WRC+04mins 53.5secs M
13. Dennis KuipersFERM Powertools Ford Fiesta RS WRC+05mins 39.2secs M
16. Peter van Merksteijn Jr Van Merksteijn Citroen DS3 WRC+06mins 59.8secs M
20. Henning Solberg M-Sport Stobart Ford Fiesta RS WRC+13mins 55.8secs M
27. PG Andersson M-Sport Stobart Ford Fiesta RS WRC+17mins 21.7secs A0
28. Federico VillagraMunchis Ford WRT Fiesta RS WRC+21mins 39.7secs M
34. Kris MeekeMini WRC Team John Cooper Works+29mins 59.5secs M
36. Peter van Merksteijn Jr Van Merksteijn Citroen DS3 WRC+33mins 48.6secs M
37. Jari-Matti Latvala Ford Abu Dhabi WRT Fiesta RS WRC+35mins 07.0secs M
38. Daniel OliveiraBrazil WRT Mini John Cooper Works+35mins 35.3secs A0

SWRC standings after Stage 8 (Top 3):

1. Ott TanakFord Fiesta S20001hr 30mins 23.0secs S
2. Martin ProkopCzech Ford National Fiesta S2000+00mins 25.7secs S
3. Juho HanninenRed Bull Skoda Fabia S2000+00mins 43.8secs S

Retirements:

SS2. Jari-Matti Latvala Ford Abu Dhabi WRT Fiesta RS WRCSuspension M
SS2. Daniel OliveiraBrazil WRT Mini John Cooper WorksStopped in stage A0
SS3. Kris MeekeMini WRC Team John Cooper WorksLost wheel M
SS5. Federico VillagraMunchis Ford WRT Fiesta RS WRCStopped in stage M
SS7. Evgeny Novikov M-Sport Stobart Ford Fiesta RS WRCOff the road A0
SS7. Henning Solberg M-Sport Stobart Ford Fiesta RS WRCStopped in stage M

all times unofficial

 

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