Loeb strolling towards Argentina win

Sebastien Loeb just has to keep going through another five stages to secure his fifth consecutive Rally Argentina win and maintain his unbeaten record in this year's World Rally Championship

Loeb strolling towards Argentina win

Mikko Hirvonen's retirement with engine problems means that Loeb is now a minute clear of the field, with his Citroen team-mate Dani Sordo in second place, and Jari-Matti Latvala a distant third.

That scenario had looked unlikely when Loeb began the day in third place, 16 seconds behind Sordo, but yet again the quintuple champion proved both faster and luckier than the competition when it really mattered. A string of stage wins took Loeb into the lead by lunchtime, and with Sordo unable to keep up and Hirvonen succumbing to rocketing water temperatures in his Ford after SS15, Loeb is now cruising to victory.

"Everything is good at the moment," said Loeb. "I'm looking to stay on the road because now we have a good lead. We'll try to finish. I think I just have to stay on the road."

Sordo admitted he was frustrated to have been outpaced by his team leader today after leading the rally for much of Friday.

"I've tried to go faster but it's really difficult and I don't know why," said the Spaniard. "Maybe it's my style of driving for this type of stage, or being first on the road. I don't know. I've tried different things to be faster but it's not possible. Sebastien is faster and faster all the time."

Ford's hopes now rest entirely on Latvala, but the Finn is under strict instructions to finish the rally after the string of errors in recent rounds that culminated in his horrifying Portugal crash. He therefore has no intention of jeopardising the podium he is now on course for.

"It's very bad for our championship that Mikko is out," said Latvala. "We are now in a good position, but I know I have done stupid things (in previous rallies), so now we need to be clever."

Both Petter Solberg (Solberg Citroen) and Henning Solberg (Stobart Ford) lost time with punctures this afternoon, so are no longer in touch with Latvala, although they continue to hold fourth and fifth.

Munchi's Ford driver Federico Villagra is now up to an impressive sixth on his home event, and has edged away from Stobart's Matthew Wilson.

With few WRC entries and the Production field a long way behind, Hirvonen currently remains classified eighth even though Ford does not know if he will be able to rejoin tomorrow.

Citroen Junior's Sebastien Ogier also hit trouble on this loop, sustaining a broken damper and losing several minutes on SS15 before retiring prior to the next stage.

The level of attrition has allowed Production class leader Nasser Al-Attiyah into the overall top ten. Al-Attiyah now enjoys a commanding lead in the category after Gabriel Pozzo hit engine problems on the day's opening road section and Marcos Ligato was slowed by a steering breakage while embroiled in battle with Al-Attiyah this afternoon.

Pos Driver Car Time 1. Sebastien Loeb Citroen 3h26m03.7s 2. Dani Sordo Citroen + 58.6s 3. Jari-Matti Latvala Ford + 1m40.1s 4. Petter Solberg Citroen + 2m40.3s 5. Henning Solberg Ford + 3m24.0s 6. Federico Villagra Ford + 5m09.0s 7. Matthew Wilson Ford + 5m27.0s 8. Mikko Hirvonen Ford + 15m57.6s 9. Nasser Al-Attiyah Subaru + 19m45.0s 10. Sebastien Ogier Citroen + 20m19.3s 
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