Ford's Petter Solberg has retired from day two of Rally Italia Sardegna after breaking the steering in the penultimate test of the day.

The Norwegian, who was running second, 23.4 seconds behind Mikko Hirvonen, went off near the end of the 14.88 kilometre Tergu-Osilio test, damaging the front left corner on his Fiesta RS WRC car.

His exit leaves Mikko Hirvonen way out front, now just over a minute up on M-Sport Ford WRT man Evgeny Novikov.

Novikov has hauled himself up to second, having been quickest in both SS6 and SS7. Mads Ostberg in contrast has slipped back with a rear differential issue costing him over 60 seconds in SS7 alone.

"They are dropping like flies, I must make sure I don't do any mistakes because there is still a long way to go," Hirvonen told the official WRC site. "I have to stay focused."

Solberg is the fourth major scalp of the event following on from Citroen's Sebastien Loeb, his Ford team-mate, Jari-Matti Latvala and Qatar WRT 'guest' driver Thierry Neuville.