It was the usual story at the Rally Turkey yesterday as Sebastien Loeb, the championship leader, moved to the front of the pack for today's final leg. The six-time world champion moved up from fifth to take the lead after being slow on Friday's first day because of having to be first on the road to tackle the gravel stages.
This has been the Frenchman's party-piece in recent years and Saturday is usually the day when business picks up and Loeb gets going. But yesterday was different as a large chunk of misfortune to Sebastien Ogier propelled Loeb to the premier position. Ogier had been superb in his Citroen Junior car and the Frenchman made light of having to be first on the road yesterday; not only did he stay in front, he stretched his advantage to open up a 10-second lead at one point.
But disaster struck on stage 15 as he suffered a blown tyre and lost more than three minutes while he was changing the damaged wheel, a piece of bad luck that saw him drop to fifth. "I had a problem with a tyre - like an explosion on a very high-speed section," Ogier told World Rally Radio. "It was impossible to control the car. I went off a little bit, we changed the tyre and restarted." Loeb will go into the six stages today with a 16.2-second lead over the privateer Citroen of Petter Solberg.
BP Ford Abu Dhabi's Mikko Hirvonen is just 1.1 seconds behind Solberg. While he will be dreaming of reeling in Loeb and taking the victory, Hirvonen will be desperate to at least finish second to minimise the damage of another victory for his championship rival, who he trails by 31 points. Jari-Matti Latvala, Hirvonen's teammate, saw his hopes of a points finish wrecked when he rolled his car on the opening stage of the day.
The former Formula One world champion Kimi Raikkonen is on target for his best finish in the championship. The Finn lies sixth in the standings in his Citroen Junior and he is 4mins 37secs adrift of leader Loeb. Dani Sordo's Citroen is in fourth place, 22.4 secs behind Loeb, with Ogier reduced to fifth after yesterday's misfortunes and needing mechanical problems to hit those in front of him if he is to move back up the order in today's closing stages.
* Compiled by Graham Caygill