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Ogier leads again as Loeb goes off

Sebastien Ogier, Citroen Junior, Rally New ZealandSebastien Ogier is fending off Jari-Matti Latvala at the head of the field going into the final two stages in New Zealand, after Sebastien Loeb took the lead only to go off the road again and fall back to fourth.

Loeb had produced an astonishing performance on Saturday to recover from eighth place, 1m40s off the lead, following a Friday error to a close second, just 5 seconds behind long-time leader Ogier.

The Citroen Junior driver did his best to resist Loeb this morning, edging slightly further away on the first splits of today's opening stage, only to then spin and hand the lead to Loeb.

"I did a mistake, on a slow corner I was a little bit too fast, hit the bank and I spun," Ogier said. "I lost 10s. For sure I've lost the lead."

He resumed 4s behind Loeb, who then looked set for a straightforward run to victory as Ogier found running first on the road through Whaanga Coast extremely difficult and lost a lot of time.

But there was another twist to come, with Loeb going off the road near the end of the stage, sustaining damage to his Citroen's front end, and costing him 40s and three positions.

That put Ogier back into the lead, but he is concerned that running first will make him highly vulnerable to those behind - and sure enough Latvala (Ford) closed to within 5s of Ogier by the end of Whaanga Cost, and Petter Solberg also made gains, getting his private Citroen up to third, 16.7s behind Ogier.

Ford number one Mikko Hirvonen won the morning's first stage and has now taken fifth from Citroen's Dani Sordo, closing to within 2s of the delayed Loeb in the process.

The field is now heading for remote service before repeating this morning's two stages. The top six remain within half a minute after two and a half days of rallying.

Pos  Driver              Car        Time/Gap
 1.  Sebastien Ogier     Citroen  3h35m38.9s
 2.  Jari-Matti Latvala  Ford         + 5.6s
 3.  Petter Solberg      Citroen     + 16.7s
 4.  Sebastien Loeb      Citroen     + 21.7s
 5.  Mikko Hirvonen      Ford        + 23.6s
 6.  Dani Sordo          Citroen     + 31.4s
 7.  Matthew Wilson      Ford      + 3m00.5s
 8.  Henning Solberg     Ford      + 5m47.6s
 9.  Federico Villagra   Ford      + 8m49.0s
10.  Jari Ketomaa        Ford      + 9m00.2s
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