Loeb, who is chasing an eighth victory on RallyRACC-Rally de Espana, was trailing Mads Ostberg in the overall classification when the Norwegian went off the road less than 10 kilometres into Saturday’s second test, which featured some damp sections.
Jari-Matti Latvala also profited from Ostberg’s rare error to take second. The Finn is now 18.9s behind Frenchman Loeb with Ostberg 47.9s adrift of Loeb in third. “I’m having to push because Jari-Matti is pushing hard,” said factory Citroen driver Loeb, who has gone quickest on two out of the three all-asphalt stages this morning.
Latvala began day two with a rapid time through the first La Mussara stage but wasn’t happy with his efforts through the next run, the gruelling 45.97-kilometre El Priorat test. Like several rival drivers he encountered a build up of mud and gravel dragged onto the road on stage nine, which he completed 2.6s slower than Loeb.
Behind Ostberg, who lost more time on stage eight striking an Armco barrier, Mikko Hirvonen is fourth overall in the second works Citroen with Ott Tanak fifth and Hans Weijs sixth on his debut in a Qatar World Rally Team Citroen after overcoming an overshoot at a hairpin on stage seven.
Dani Sordo’s efforts to make up lost time following his exit on Friday morning have been hampered by a power glitch in his MINI. Thierry Neuville, who also restarted under Rally 2 rules, reported brake issues. Meanwhile, John Powell made it through stage seven but withdrew shortly afterwards suffering from an inner ear infection.
Craig Breen continues to hold a comfortable advantage over P-G Andersson in the Super 2000 World Rally Championship. But there has been high drama in the Production Car World Rally Championship with overnight leader Marcos Ligato dropping back with a brake glitch on stage eight, where second-place Yeray Lemes was slowed by a transmission problem.
Michal Koscisuzko, one of six PWRC title contenders prior to the start, went off the road in a long left-hand corner on stage nine, leaving team-mate and title leader Benito Guerra in the clear. Local hero Jose Suarez was on top in the WRC Academy after stage eight.
Stage 10, the repeat of the 20.48-kilometre La Mussara test, goes live at 13:51hrs local time.