Loeb set for Portugal victory

Sebastien Loeb looks assured of victory in the Rally of Portugal, with Mikko Hirvonen admitting that he cannot catch the world champion on the final loop

Loeb set for Portugal victory

Hirvonen had hoped that running first on the road would slow Loeb's Citroen this morning, but instead it was the Finn who struggled as he ran in the dust that lingered in Loeb's wake.

"The dust was the problem again," said Hirvonen after falling half a minute behind Loeb by the end of SS15.

"There's no point risking it now and going flat-out into the dust when you can't see anything. There's nothing we can do. There are just three stages to go and it looks like we have to settle for second."

Loeb won both stages on today's first loop, but said he had been driving relatively conservatively.

"I'm driving normally, no big attack, but trying not to lose any time," he said.

Dani Sordo (Citroen) and Petter Solberg remain on course for third and fourth places, despite Solberg being slightly hampered by a flapping bonnet lid on SS15.

Matthew Wilson has made a break from his Stobart Ford team-mate Henning Solberg in their battle for fifth, with the Norwegian struggling with poor visibility thanks to the dust and a misted screen, leaving Wilson 32 seconds ahead with three stages to go.

The fight for seventh has also been resolved after Citroen Junior's Evgeny Novikov went off on SS15 while trying to get back ahead of Mads Ostberg's Adapta Subaru. Novikov's retirement allows his team-mate Conrad Rautenbach to move into the points.

Leading positions after SS15:

Pos Driver Car Time 1. Sebastien Loeb Citroen 3h23m42.3s 2. Mikko Hirvonen Ford + 31.1s 3. Dani Sordo Citroen + 1m32.8s 4. Petter Solberg Citroen + 2m38.5s 5. Matthew Wilson Ford + 4m14.1s 6. Henning Solberg Ford + 4m56.0s 7. Mads Ostberg Subaru + 5m43.6s 8. Conrad Rautenbach Citroen + 8m15.3s 9. Federico Villagra Ford + 11m29.0s 10. Khalid Al Qassimi Ford + 17m08.8s 
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Loeb leads into final day in Portugal

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