Loeb strengthens grip on title in Italy

Reigning world rally champion Sebastien Loeb maintained his grip on the Italian Rally with some controlled driving on the second day.

The Frenchman had been forced out of the previous round in Jordan but bounced back to lead after day two for Citroen.

Loeb goes into tomorrow’s final day with a lead of 29.4 seconds and believes he has enough of an advantage to hold out for victory.

Loeb said: “A 30-second head start is not so bad, it’s what I wanted to have - although it’s probably the minimum.

“We tried hard and did lose some time in the gravel but the car is feeling good so we’ll have to see what happens tomorrow. Hopefully the stages won’t be too loose and gravely.”

BP Ford’s Jari-Matti Latvala was fastest through each of the day’s stages to move up five places in the standings to lie joint second overall with team-mate Mikko Hirvonen.

Latvala admitted he had no plan ahead of today’s impressive showing.

“I didn’t have any tactics today, I just tried to go as fast as I could,” he said.

“I’m a little bit disappointed about the last one (special stage 12) because I was over-driving, going a bit wide here and there, but it’s a new day tomorrow.

“Unfortunately running second on the road is a little bit bad but okay, I’m not going to worry about it. I just hope I can catch Loeb.”

Italian Gigi Galli delighted his home fans by moving up from seventh to fourth in the Stobart Ford Focus.

“I was a bit scared to keep the right pace but we did it,” said Galli.

“I know I take a little time to warm up but it’s been a good day – just one spin on the long stage in the morning.

“I’ll try and keep it under control tomorrow but it won’t be easy. We will try and keep maximum concentration.”

But it was not a good day for Citroen’s Dani Sordo who now lies fifth ahead of the Subaru of Chris Atkinson, Munchi Ford’s Henning Solberg and the Citroen of Urmo Aava.

P-G Andersson is the leading Suzuki driver in ninth with Petter Solberg 10th in the Subaru.

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