Sebastien Loeb has maintained his lead through the second day of Rally Cyprus, but saw his advantage cut on the run through Saturday afternoon's stages.

Aiming to secure his 50th victory in the WRC, the Citroen driver had extended his lead during the three stages which made up the morning of day two, with Ford's Mikko Hirvonen moving ahead of Dani Sordo into second place.

During the afternoon however, Hirvonen was able to take time out of Loeb on both the Xyliatos and Kourdali stages as Loeb struggled with a brake problem on his C4 and also suffered a stall in the final stage.

As a result, his lead going into the final day will be just under 50sec, although Loeb will have to contend with running first on the road through the final three stages of the event; which includes the longest test of the rally at more than 40km.

"We had to drive very smoothly to keep the brake temperature down," he said following the final stage of the day. "Then, one kilometre from the end, we spun and stalled on a hairpin and I had to reverse to get going again. So two very difficult stages in the afternoon and we lost some time, but we're still in the lead and that's the most important thing for the moment."

Hirvonen had endured a difficult opening day to the event but moved ahead of Sordo into second place when he went quickest on the second stage on Saturday and was able to hold his place through to the end of the leg, making the most of his road position to open up an advantage of over 46 seconds to the Spaniard.

"Finally I have learnt how to drive," the Finn quipped. "There is a long day tomorrow and hopefully we can put some pressure on Sebastien. The gap is still very big, but you never know."

From a solid second place overnight, Sordo now finds himself battling to even remain on the podium going into the final day after a storming afternoon from Petter Solberg in his privately-entered Citroen Xsara.

Having been over a minute and a half behind the works Citroen going into the leg, Solberg made small gains during the morning's three stages but was still 1min 25.7secs behind at the mid-day service. However, during the afternoon, Solberg was a man on a mission and took nearly 35 seconds out of Sordo on SS10 and the same amount on SS11 - both of which he won - to end the day just 15.9secs away from a place on the podium.

"Bloody hell!" he said when finding out how much he had closed in on Sordo in the battle for third. "It suits the car now it's dry. I came here to enjoy myself and the feeling is back."

Matthew Wilson lies in fifth place but has Sebastien Ogier just half a minute behind as the Frenchman looks to bounce back from an error on Saturday morning that saw him roll his Citroen Junior Team C4. Ogier climbed back ahead of team-mate Evgeny Novikov when the Russian driver lost time with a spin on SS10, but he bounced back to show his potential with the third quickest time behind the Solberg brothers on the final test of the day.

Novikov will start day three 40 seconds behind Ogier but has a minute advantage over Conrad Rautenbach, who holds a comfortable eighth. Federico Villagra and Khalid Al Qassimi round out the top ten.

Ford had looked set for a strong day when Jari-Matti Latvala set the pace ahead of Hirvonen on the opening stage of the day, but things went wrong for Latvala on SS8 when he went off the road and got stuck in a ditch, losing more than 20 minutes in the process.

"About 7.5km after the start of the stage I reached a left-right combination of bends," he said. "I entered the left corner too fast and had to cut the inside of the right bend to compensate. It was only second gear so I didn't have enough speed to climb out of the cut and back onto the road.

"The car became stuck in heavy sand on Miikka's side and there was nobody about to help. I ran back along the stage for 1km to find spectators who ran back with me and we were able to push the car out. It was just a slight mistake in my notes, they were too fast for the left corner. It's a big disappointment. It's my first time in Cyprus and maybe I should not have tried to fight with the guys ahead."

With all hope of drivers' points having gone, Latvala will aim to try and pick up manufacturer points for his team and set solid times for the remainder of the day although he finds himself down in 19th place overall. Barring any retirements ahead, that would see him take a single point towards Ford's championship title.

After his retirement on the opening day, Henning Solberg returned under SupeRally and ended the second leg in 23rd place, over half an hour from the leaders.

In the Production WRC, Armindo Araujo will take a slender lead of just 16.5secs into the final day after Patrik Sandell made up time on the leader, despite an error on SS10, while Nasser Al-Attiyah lies in third but is now little more than a minute off the pace at the wheel of his Subaru and very much in with a chance of taking PWRC honours with more than 80km of competitive stages remaining.

A number of PWRC runners his problems on day two, with Simone Campedelli slipping out of contention after rear diff failure during the morning left him with two-wheel drive, while Frederic Sauvan, Nicos Thomas, Martin Semerad and Egoi Eder Valdes Lopez all retired - the latter in bizarre circumstances when he ran out of fuel on a road section.

The Junior World Rally Championship battle appeared to be over after day one, but when Martin Prokop went the wrong way on set-up for the morning stages, Michal Kosciuszko was able to take large chunks of time out of the leader. However, Prokop recovered during the afternoon and will lead by more than two minutes into the final day.

Aaron Burkart lies third, but admits he is only 'racing himself' after his opening day issues left him more than 18 minutes off the pace.

Day two standings can be found HERE.



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