Day 2am: Loeb holds firm

World Rally Championship leader Sebastien Loeb remains at the top of the leaderboard halfway through the second leg of the Rally Deutschland. But two of this morning's four stages had to cancelled after Mitsubishi's Gilles Panizzi and Subaru's world champion Petter Solberg both crashed heavily in separate accidents due to the atrocious weather conditions

Day 2am: Loeb holds firm

Loeb now looks secure at the front as he chases his fifth victory of the season. The Frenchman has a half-minute advantage over Citroen team-mate Carlos Sainz with only the two factory Fords of Francois Duval and Markko Martin left to stage a realistic pursuit. Although the nearest Focus, in Duval's hands, is a further 30s adrift of the leader.

Panizzi's shunt occurred on the first stage of Leg 2, SS9, when the factory Lancer clouted a post heavily on the left side. The Frenchman, who had shone throughout the first leg, required assistance from his brother (and co-driver) Herve to climb out of the vehicle and was flown to hospital with a suspected broken left arm. After checks however, the Frenchman was found to have sustained only heavy bruising.

The stage however was cancelled and the five leaders, Loeb, Sainz, Duval, Martin and Solberg - those who had already completed the run - were all given a nominal time of 9m39.9s.

Ford then put on a spirited show by dominating SS10 and SS11, the only two completed stages of the day so far. Duval was quickest on SS10, 5s faster than his team-mate, and 9s faster than Loeb who was also beaten down to fourth by Marcus Gronholm (who retired yesterday but is back in the rally through the SupeRally system).

Then it was Martin's turn to go fastest, although the Estonian was only a mere second faster than the next man - Peugeot's asphalt specialist Freddy Loix. Solberg was third quickest with Gronholm, Duval and Loeb all coming in less than 6s off the ultimate pace.

So by the end of SS11, third-placed Duval had closed the gap to Sainz to just 20s, while overall leader Loeb was another 27s up the road. But despite the time advantage, Loeb must be aware of the Belgian's pace, and with conditions proving as tricky as they are, he can ill-afford a mistake. Solberg was fourth overall, ahead of Martin and Skoda's Toni Gardemeister.

SS12 was cancelled because of Solberg's reportedly heavy shunt, neither he nor co-driver Peter Mills is injured, although the latter was taken to hospital for precautionary checks. The front-runners were awarded nominal times again which has temporarily stunted the Ford charge with Duval now more than a minute behind Loeb again.

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Day 1: Loeb out in front

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