Sebastien Loeb will take a 16-second lead into the deciding leg of the Rally of Turkey as the leaders all spurned slowing tactics on Saturday's final stage.
In contrast to recent gravel rallies, and following the controversy that erupted over the deliberate penalties some incurred in the Jordan Rally to help their teammates, the top drivers all went flat-out through today's stages in Turkey.
Loeb admitted that running first on the road tomorrow could be a disadvantage, as he suspects conditions will be more dusty on leg three, but the Citroen number one said he preferred to try and win from the front.
"I've tried really hard since the start of the rally," said Loeb. "Today it seems all [road] positions were the same, tomorrow [the effect] may be more. I'm happy with where I am at the moment. It may not be easy, but we will try."
Petter Solberg (Solberg Citroen) and Mikko Hirvonen (Ford) are just a second apart in second and third, with Solberg also glad he had opted against tactical slowing.
"You never know what can happen at the last corner – a puncture or anything – so I just went very tidily and didn't think about any tactics," he said. "It's going really well."
Dani Sordo is also still in contention in the second works Citroen, holding fourth, 5sec behind Hirvonen. Sebastien Ogier continues to match the leaders' pace in fifth, but is three minutes off the front following the burst tire that cost him the lead on SS15.
"It was a pleasure to drive today, a big fight with the other guys," lamented Ogier, who had been comfortably in front of the factory cars before his misfortune. "It's a shame to have a problem, but that's life sometimes. What can I say? I tried to push quite hard today because I knew it was the only way to keep the lead. It was bad luck for us today."
Kimi Raikkonen holds sixth in the second Citroen Junior car, and is now just over half a minute ahead of Munchi's Ford's Federico Villagra. A puncture on the last stage of the day dropped Matthew Wilson (Stobart Ford) away from this battle.
Pos Driver Car Time/Gap
1. Sebastien Loeb Citroen 2h19m13.5s
2. Petter Solberg Citroen + 16.2s
3. Mikko Hirvonen Ford + 17.3s
4. Dani Sordo Citroen + 22.4s
5. Sebastien Ogier Citroen + 3m21.0s
6. Kimi Raikkonen Citroen + 4m37.5s
7. Federico Villagra Ford + 5m10.1s
8. Matthew Wilson Ford + 6m16.6s
9. Ott Tanak Mitsubishi + 14m33.6s
10. Dennis Kuipers Ford + 17m16.2s