Loeb pulls away from Hirvonen

Sebastien Loeb has pulled out a commanding 25s lead in the championship-deciding Rally GB after Mikko Hirvonen started to struggle for pace

Loeb pulls away from Hirvonen

Hirvonen had carved into Loeb's advantage again as the rain arrived on this morning's first stage, getting the gap down to just 2.9s.

But then on the following two stages the Ford could not get anywhere near the Citroen's times, allowing Loeb to establish a large lead margin.

Hirvonen was frustrated by his struggles, and could not put his finger on what had gone wrong.

"Both stages were a very good drive, but I just can't do the times," he said. "It's just not going anywhere. We'll have to go to service and have a look. In some places it feels like it's not turning or it's oversteering, I don't know."

Loeb said that regardless of whether Hirvonen had any problems, he had been pushing to the absolute maximum to try and rebuild his early lead.

"That's really, really good," said Loeb when told of his new advantage.

"I don't know if he's made a mistake somewhere, but I'm flat-out. I know in the afternoon he was quicker than me yesterday, so I've tried really hard this morning."

The fight for third place has also spread out, with Citroen number two Dani Sordo pulling out a 24s gap over Petter Solberg - whose self-run Citroen's windscreen wipers malfunctioned this morning, leaving Solberg struggling for visibility as the rain increased.

Sebastien Ogier (Citroen Junior) and the two Stobart Fords continue to run in fifth through seventh places, with the recovering Jari-Matti Latvala (Ford) now up to eighth ahead of the second Citroen Junior car of Conrad Rautenbach.

Leading positions after SS9:

Pos Driver Car Time/Gap 1. Sebastien Loeb Citroen 1h53m48.5s 2. Mikko Hirvonen Ford + 25.0s 3. Dani Sordo Citroen + 1m02.5s 4. Petter Solberg Citroen + 1m26.1s 5. Sebastien Ogier Citroen + 3m44.6s 6. Henning Solberg Ford + 4m27.0s 7. Matthew Wilson Ford + 5m21.3s 8. Jari-Matti Latvala Ford + 7m40.4s 9. Conrad Rautenbach Citroen + 9m02.9s 10. Aaron Burkart Citroen + 12m04.5s 
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