Solberg hangs on as rivals close in

Petter Solberg continues to lead Rally Japan, but Jari-Matti Latvala, Sebastien Ogier and Mikko Hirvonen are all closing in on the Norwegian

Solberg hangs on as rivals close in

The morning started extremely well for Solberg, as running first on the road proved to be no issue on the Nikara stage, while overnight second place man Hirvonen lost a little time when he spun his Ford.

That meant Solberg's lead jumped from 9.4 seconds to 21.5s - but over the next two stages his rivals began to reel the Solberg Citroen in as his road position proved to be more of an impediment.

A win for Latvala (Ford) on the 33km Kamuycep stage brought the Finn up to second, which he held despite an incorrect pace note causing him to run wide and pick up a puncture right at the end of the following Kina stage. He is now just 5.9s behind Solberg, and 1.6s ahead of third-placed Ogier's Citroen. Hirvonen is also within 11s of the lead in fourth.

Citroen Junior's Dani Sordo remains in contention too. The Spaniard was quickest on Kina and is just 20.1s behind Solberg in fifth.

After his disappointing Friday, Citroen number one Sebastien Loeb has shown better pace today - but feels he is matching rather than catching the leaders so doubts he will gain much ground. Nevertheless, he has brought the gap to Solberg down to 40.2s.

Seventh-placed Henning Solberg is now Stobart Ford's only car in the points as Matthew Wilson went off the road on Nikara and got stuck. Kimi Raikkonen (Citroen Junior) is up to eighth ahead of Federico Villagra's Munchi's Ford.

Pos Driver Car Time/Gap 1. Petter Solberg Citroen 1h50m07.2s 2. Jari-Matti Latvala Ford + 5.9s 3. Sebastien Ogier Citroen + 7.5s 4. Mikko Hirvonen Ford + 11.6s 5. Dani Sordo Citroen + 20.1s 6. Sebastien Loeb Citroen + 40.2s 7. Henning Solberg Ford + 1m35.0s 8. Kimi Raikkonen Citroen + 5m28.2s 9. Federico Villagra Ford + 5m36.0s 10. Jari Ketomaa Ford + 8m32.5s 
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