Loeb Fights Back

Sebastien Loeb hit back at Marcus Gronholm's early Leg Two pace by taking two stage victories on the afternoon's loop of stages

Loeb Fights Back

Loeb, in search of his sixth consecutive rally victory, now has a lead of 26.6 seconds going into Leg Three.

Gronholm had taken three superb wins from the morning's four stages, slashing his deficit to rally leader Loeb from 44.6 seconds at the end of yesterday to 25.2 seconds at lunch, and demoting Petter Solberg to third.

But Championship leader Loeb secured the fastest times on SS16 and SS17, before the Peugeot driver rounded off the day with one final, albeit close, victory.

Gronholm's afternoon pace may not have quite matched Loeb, but it help to cement his second place spot over Petter Solberg.

Solberg had come out of the blocks fighting to win the days first stage but the Peugeot driver fought back to take the position by 1.3 seconds on SS14, the 21.4 km stage of Santa Rosa de Calamu.

In the afternoon's stages Gronholm pulled out a more than half a minute over the Subaru driver, and now has a 35.1 second cushion for the runner-up slot. His SS17 stage victory only brought him 1.1 seconds back on Loeb, however the Finn will be happy with the progress he has made today.

Solberg, suffering with brake problems, was never higher than sixth best on any of the afternoon's stages and will have to have a sensational day tomorrow if he is to challenge Gronholm.

But despite Solberg's problems there remains a league between the leading trio and the fight for fourth.

Toni Gardemeister continues to hold the position. The Ford driver is nearly three minutes down on Loeb, but is still performing well enough to keep ahead of the Mitsubishi of Harri Rovanpera and the Peugeot of Markko Martin.

Rovanpera reeled in Gardemeister on the afternoon's stages, narrowing the gap from 24.0 seconds at lunch to 11.0 seconds. Rovanpera was buoyed by the second fastest time on SS16, the Mitsubishi driver only half a second off winner Loeb on the 9.43 km stage from Tanti to Cosquin.

Markko Martin, however has fallen away from the battle, and is now 51.3 seconds behind Gardemeister in sixth.

Works Citroen driver Francois Duval pulled out 30.0 seconds over privateer Citroen runner Manfred Stohl in the battle for seventh. Duval, returning to the WRC after his two-event enforced rest, finished runner-up on SS13, even beating teammate Loeb by 4.4 seconds on the 20.29km stage. He now holds a 35.5 second advantage over Stohl, but it is optimistic to expect him to pressure Martin who is 50.2 seconds up the road.

Mitsubishi's Gigi Galli restarted the event after his retirement yesterday, and put in some impressive stage times. The Italian was only 3.1 seconds down on Gronholm through SS13, recording the third fastest time. He now lies in 21st.

The Rally Argentina could be set for a dramatic finale tomorrow despite the spread of drivers. Nearly ten centimetres of snow has already fallen at El Condor, the setting for two of tomorrow's final stages.

The temperature is currently only seven degrees Celsius at the Service Park at Carlos Paz. However more snow is forecast by tomorrow at the setting for Rally Argentina's highest stages.

Top 20 at the end of Leg Two:

Pos Driver Make Time 1. Loeb Citroen 3h 3:45.9 2. Gronholm Peugeot + 26.6 3. Solberg Subaru + 1:01.7 4. Gardemeister Ford + 2:46.2 5. Rovanpera Mitsubishi + 2:57.2 6. Martin Peugeot + 3:48.5 7. Duval Citroen + 4:38.7 8. Stohl Citroen + 5:14.2 9. Atkinson Subaru + 5:33.1 10. Kresta Ford + 7:18.4 11. Pons Citroen + 7:28.7 12. Warmbold Ford + 7:35.1 13. Ligato Peugeot + 12:20.2 14. Perez Ford + 13:24.9 15. Carlsson Peugeot + 17:01.3 16. Schwarz Skoda + 20:24.9 17. Al-Attiyah Subaru + 21:21.3 18. Medeghini Mitsubishi + 23:58.2 19. Trivino Peugeot + 24:25.0 20. Higgins Subaru + 24:43.3 
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