Frenchman Loeb and Finnish hero Hirvonen have been evenly matched for much of day two of the FIA World Rally Championship qualifier with Hirvonen taking three stage victories and Loeb managing a brace in their identical works DS3 WRCs. The only cause for concern for the French make was the rear differential glitch Loeb reported at the end of stage eight.
Jari-Matti Latvala is the leading Ford driver in third place, one position ahead of team-mate Petter Solberg. Latvala struggled for confidence this morning but his second-best time on stage eight signalled an upturn in form following set-up changes.
Mads Ostberg blamed set-up issues for his failure to overhaul Solberg in his Adapta-run Fiesta. He nevertheless holds a strong fifth place with Thierry Neuville sixth for the Citroen Junior World Rally Team.
Ott Tanak is seventh in his semi-works M-Sport Fiesta with Jari Ketomaa up to eighth despite a persistent engine misfire hampering his Autotek Fiesta. Matti Rantanen and Martin Prokop complete the top 10 in their privateer Fiestas.
Chris Atkinson was in eighth overall, having lost time with an intercom glitch this morning, when he left the road on stage eight after mishearing a pace note. He lost significant time when his Qatar World Rally Team Citroen got stuck on a tree stump.
Evgeny Novikov was also out of luck, rolling twice on stage two. Despite inflicting significant cosmetic damage to his Fiesta he was able to continue although his co-driver Denis Giraudet is nursing a sore back, the result of a heavy landing on the previous stage.
Esapekka Lappi leads the Super 2000 World Rally Championship from P-G Andersson and Craig Breen. Hayden Paddon, who topped the drivers’ standings prior to the rally, retired with engine failure.
In the chase for WRC Academy honours, Elfyn Evans is more than one minute in front of Pontus Tidemand. Title leader Alastair Fisher was second when a throttle issue put him out. He hopes to return under Rally 2 rules on Saturday.