Day 2: Martin fights on

Markko Martin leads the Tour de Corse after the second leg but the battle between the Estonian and his Ford team-mate Francois Duval will rage on into the final day as the pair took a stage win apiece this afternoon (Saturday)

Day 2: Martin fights on

Rain shortly before SS7 meant that Duval's set-up, and hard dry tyres, were better suited to the conditions and the Belgian cut Martin's overall lead to just 9.6s. But the Estonian, more prepared for the rain in SS8, responded magnificently, completing a Ford sweep of the Leg 2 stages to ensure he holds a 20s advantage overnight.

World Championship leader Sebastien Loeb remains in a comfortable third position, nearly 50s behind Duval. The French driver simply has to finish where he is to take his first world title, with championship rival Petter Solberg languishing down in sixth position overall.

Loeb's Citroen simply does not had the pace of the super-fast Fords on the Corsican asphalt, and there is a risk-curbing title to think about, but he did manage to split the Focus cars on the final 40km stage, just 0.8s off Martin's best.

Despite being on the wrong tyres for SS7, Loeb's rally has so far been as worry free as any title-clinching drive can be, however he did have one scare as the impressive privateer Alex Bengue's rally came to and end while running eight. The French driver suffered a car-damaging puncture on SS7.

"I smelt burning in the cockpit and thought I had destroyed my tyres," said Loeb. "But it turned out to be coming from [Alex] Bengue's car, which was going slowly, and which I'd caught up."

Works Subaru star Solberg is forlorn. His problem is that the Impreza feels better to drive than his stage times are suggesting. He is nearly a minute and a half behind his closest rival Marcus Gronholm in fifth and more than four minutes off the lead. Retirements allowing, the championship is all but over.

"I had to overtake Bengue as well, but that doesn't explain our lack of pace," said Solberg. "I was on hard tyres, I was pushing hard, but it wasn't enough. The car is good. I am too, but the times just aren't there."

Gronholm, Peugeot's last realistic hope of a podium finish should those in front fall off after team-mate Cedric Robert crashed on the first stage of the day, has not yet given up on the fourth place occupied by Carlos Sainz.

The remarkable Stephane Sarrazin is now in a clear seventh place in his privateer Subaru ahead of works Peugeot driver Freddy Loix and the Skodas of Armin Schwarz and Toni Gardemeister (recovering from earlier transmission problems).

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