Citroen team leader Sebastien Loeb continues to lead Rally Norway, the second round in the 2009 World Rally Championship, following day two.

Loeb was handed the lead in the final stage on Friday, when Mikko Hirvonen slowed on purpose to give himself a better road position for the second leg.

However, despite running first on the road, Seb has held the advantage all day long and having started it 2.6 seconds in front, he will now go into Sunday's final six stages - and the longest leg of the event - with a 15 second cushion.

Despite managing to pull away though and set the pace in five of the eight tests, the Frenchman remains typically cautious.

He also added that Mikko's manoeuvrings were logical: "Yesterday I understood the tactics because he [Mikko] would have been in the same position as me, but maybe 1 or 2 seconds in front," said the five-time world champion.

"But it is not a problem. It is normal that he played that and I tried my best to keep my position.

"I don't know much about the stages tomorrow now. Today though, they were really nice and I think they should hopefully be good on day three too."

Hirvonen's gamble meanwhile has definitely not paid off - at least based on what happened today and the Finn was only able to beat Loeb in one of the tests, when he took 1.1 seconds out of him in SS15.

Mikko remains determined to fight on however, and try and take the maximum ten points.

"We were both driving at a crazy speed, especially this morning," Hirvonen noted. "The grip was consistent and it was fantastic to drive in those conditions. It's an amazing fight, and while I don't enjoy being second, I'm loving this contest. I've not had problems, he's just been faster than me.

"I need to be faster than him tomorrow. It's not impossible to turn the gap around and I will give it my best shot.

"It's so close and there are many risks still to be taken. I'll be so disappointed if I lose out tomorrow."

Jari-Matti Latvala is next up and third in the sister BP Ford Abu Dhabi WRT entry. The Finn struggled again this morning to match Loeb and Hirvonen and it wasn't until the afternoon that he finally seemed to get his Focus set-up to his liking and find the groove. As a result he was fastest in SS15 and SS16, but he still remains over 40 seconds off the lead.

"It went well this afternoon," said Latvala. "Unfortunately I found the right car set-up a little too late. I'll try to keep the pressure on tomorrow but the time gap is too large for me to challenge the two guys in front. I would love to be battling with them but I have to be sensible and realistic.

"I didn't find the right feeling this morning and was braking too early. There was no problem with the car and I only had to look in the mirror to see where the problem was."

Henning Solberg now lies fourth, having got the better of Dani Sordo on the repeat loop this afternoon, when he set the quickest time in SS14 and was fourth in SS15 and SS16. He now lies 12 seconds ahead.

"Today has been great, much better than yesterday and far more enjoyable," said the Stobart Ford man. "The feeling with the car is improved and now I'm really enjoying it; hopefully I'm also putting on a good show for all the Norwegian fans.

"The stages were in great condition today and the tyres provided fantastic grip. To get ahead of Sordo is a big bonus and the fastest time just topped the day off for me. Now I am the fastest Solberg on the rally; hopefully I can keep it like this tomorrow."

Sordo in contrast conceded that the conditions on the repeat loop were just too difficult: "We changed the springs and made the car harder in service. That has given me a better feeling but now the conditions are terrible," he confirmed. "It was definitely harder this afternoon on the second run through. I have to push but I do not have complete confidence."

Further down the order, Petter Solberg lies sixth on his debut outing in his privateer Citroen Xsara WRC. 'Hollywood' slipped back today to P7, but managed to get back in front of Matthew Wilson in the penultimate stage, despite gearbox issues. The two are now split by just 2.3 seconds.

"We have a leak in the gearbox, we can't find it but you can smell the oil," said the ex-Subaru WRT man. "The car went on to three cylinders on stage 14 and it's still not running properly. I hope we can make it back to Hamar tonight."

Of the rest, Urmo Aava is on course for the final point in eighth, followed by Mads ?stberg and Sebastien Ogier, the latter heading up Citroen's Junior Team trio, with Conrad Rautenbach and Evgeny Novikov eleventh and twelfth respectively.

It was a torrid day for all three of Citroen's 'B' team drivers, Ogier lost time with an alternator problem this morning, while Rautenbach went into a snow bank this afternoon and lost three minutes. Novikov also had issues with starter motor and gearbox problems sandwiching a four-minute excursion into a snow bank.

In the Production Car World Rally Championship category, Patrik Sandell remains in the lead in his Red Bull Rallye Team-run Skoda Fabia S2000. He managed to set four fastest times today and now lies 2 minutes 1.7 seconds up on Eyvind Brynildsen's Lancer Evo.

Brynildsen had been down in ninth position last night, but the stewards took pity on him this morning and gave him back the 7 minutes he lost in SS5 on Friday, when he went off the road to avoid Patrik Flodin's stranded car.

Despite that though, Sandell still started day two 1.5 minutes in front and he remains on course for the win tonight.

"I'm just very satisfied, since there aren't any problems at all, the car is running well and I'm able to focus solely on driving," he stated, "and that's a lot of fun."

Martin Prokop completes the P-WRC top three, with Andreas Mikkelsen fourth and Armindo Araujo fifth.

As for retirements, Per-Gunnar Andersson was the only major casualty and he saw his fantastic run in his Skoda Fabia WRC end before SS13. P-G had been up in sixth, just 7.6 seconds behind Henning Solberg, when clutch problems forced him out.

The action now concludes on Sunday and the final leg is the longest of the rally with 126.16 kilometres of competition lying in wait east of Hamar.

After a 06.20 restart, drivers face two identical loops of three stages, split by a return to the town for mid-morning service. Each loop begins with the 30.03km V?ler test, the longest of the event. The finish ceremony takes place in Hamar at 15.05 [all times local].



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