Finn Latvala, in a factory Ford Fiesta, is 13.1s behind French legend Loeb’s Citroen DS3 starting day two of the all-asphalt event in Strasbourg.
He said: “My target was to improve my performance from the last asphalt round in Germany and I did that. I was a little inconsistent at times because I lacked confidence in corners where mud had been dragged onto the road by cars cutting. Maybe I was trying to drive too fast and attack too much. Today’s stages are narrow and bumpier, but I will try to keep the pressure on.”
Latvala’s Ford team-mate Petter Solberg can also secure a podium finish in France, providing he can overhaul Citroen pilot Mikko Hirvonen in the fight for third. Starting day two, Norwegian Solberg trails Finn Hirvonen by 0.7s.
“Once I had the right feeling then my pace was at the same level as Jari-Matti,” said Solberg. “It’s a shame that I lost time in the first two stages. I will keep pushing to try to reach the podium and if I can keep the same rhythm as I had this afternoon then that’s achievable.”