Day 2am: Loeb out

Markko Martin has put himself firmly on course for victory in the Rally Catalunya after being handed a comfortable 40 seconds advantage at the front of the field following the retirement of newly crowned world champion Sebastien Loeb

Day 2am: Loeb out

The Ford ace had been locked in a tight battle with his Citroen rival throughout the first day and the first stage of the second leg, but it all changed on stage eight when Loeb dropped out after breaking the sump on his car on the previous stage.

The dramatic twist of events, which is only Loeb's second retirement of the season following a similar broken sump failure in Mexico, has left Martin well clear of the opposition at the head of the field.

Martin was quickest overall on stage eight and, although pipped by Marcus Gronholm on the ninth stage at Prats de Llucanes, he currently holds a comfortable 42.3 seconds lead at the head of the field.

Gronholm lies in second place, but only just with local hero Carlos Sainz still pushing ultra hard for at least a top-three place in his penultimate world championship rally. He is just six seconds behind his Peugeot rival, having dropped back a little on stage nine.

Subaru's Petter Solberg continues to struggle for overall pace on the asphalt surface and, although running fourth overall, he is a huge one minute 42.1 seconds off the lead. Frenchman Stephane Sarrazin in the privateer Subaru continues his impressive switch to rallying as he currently holds the fifth spot.

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