Solberg Stretches Out Lead

Petter Solberg continued to stretch out his lead in a wet Rally Japan, as Sebastien Loeb continued to do all he needed to clinch his second world championship crown

Solberg Stretches Out Lead

Solberg leads Peugeot's Marcus Gronholm by 32.3 seconds as they both got the best of some of the rutted stages caused by the wet conditions.

Solberg and Gronholm traded stage wins, taking five and four stage wins on the day respectively, however the gap between the pair remains only two seconds smaller after the second leg.

Solberg went into the leg with a 22.9-second lead over Loeb, however the Frenchman drove conservatively during the day to ensure he secures the podium finish he needs to win this year's title with three rallies remaining.

Loeb dropped to third in SS12, after Gronholm powered through the 9.05km stage of Pawse-Kamuy 4.1 seconds faster than the Frenchman.

However, Loeb holds a one and a half-minute advantage over fourth-placed Gigi Galli, and barring mechanical difficulty, should clinch the title tomorrow.

Galli is on for his best finish of the season, if he can win a tight four-car battle for fourth. Galli moved ahead of Mitsubishi teammate Harri Rovanpera to take the position in SS20, when the Finn struggled with his spotlights as darkness fell. Rovanpera lost 23 seconds to stage winner Solberg in the stage but then continued with his impressive Rally GB pace, winning the final stage of the day to pull within 1.1 seconds of Galli.

It was an eventful day for Rovanpera, who won the opening stage of the day despite a malfunctioning intercom. He also lost his rear bumper in SS17 after hitting a deep rut.

Subaru's Chris Atkinson lies in sixth, only 9.9 seconds behind Rovanpera, and will be hopeful of securing fourth in an event he has driven twice previously.

Citroen's Francois Duval is also locked in the battle, only 1.9 second behind Atkinson in seventh. Ford's Toni Gardemeister rounds out the points-paying positions in eighth.

Standings after SS21:

Pos  Driver        Make        Time
 1.  Solberg       Subaru      2:34:23.6
 2.  Gronholm      Peugeot     +    32.3
 3.  Loeb          Citroen     +  1:11.1
 4.  Galli         Mitsubishi  +  2:42.7
 5.  Rovanpera     Mitsubishi  +  2:43.8
 6.  Atkinson      Subaru      +  2:53.7
 7.  Duval         Citroen     +  2:55.6
 8.  Gardemeister  Ford        +  4:05.2
 9.  Kresta        Ford        +  4:21.9
10.  Carlsson      Peugeot     +  5:36.2
11.  Warmbold      Ford        +  7:02.2
12.  Schwarz       Skoda       +  9:22.8
13.  Panizzi       Mitsubishi  + 12:28.3
14.  Arai          Subaru      + 16:39.3
15.  Crocker       Subaru      + 17:51.0
16.  Nutahara      Mitsubishi  + 18:18.3
17.  Teiskonen     Subaru      + 20:13.1
18.  Villagra      Mitsubishi  + 23:51.2
19.  Ligato        Subaru      + 25:49.9
20.  Beltran       Subaru      + 27:26.1

All Timing Unofficial
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