Citroen is on course for a podium sweep in the Rally of Turkey, as Sebastien Loeb cemented his lead on the only stage run on the first Sunday loop, and Mikko Hirvonen lost time following an error. The Deniz and Mudarli stages were cancelled due to extremely muddy conditions caused by overnight rain, but SS20 Ballica went ahead.
Although Petter Solberg and Hirvonen had high hopes of closing the 16-second gap to leader Loeb this morning, it was the champion who emerged with the stage win, 0.3sec faster than Solberg. Hirvonen fared even worse, damaging a tire on his Ford and dropping 48s to Loeb's Citroen.
"I came into this stage flat-out to fight for the first place," said Hirvonen. "I just went wide, hit a big rock and had a puncture, so it's my mistake."
The drama dropped Hirvonen to fourth, behind Citroen number two Dani Sordo, who admitted he eased his pace when he saw debris from Hirvonen's brush with the scenery.
Despite failing to close on Loeb this morning, Solberg remains optimistic that he could still challenge for the lead on the final loop after service.
"I tried hard. He must've been pushing at a high limit," said Solberg on seeing that Loeb had actually inched away from him. "I never thought it would be easy. At least we've got a few stages. Anything can happen."
Citroen Junior pair Sebastien Ogier and Kimi Raikkonen continue to run fifth and sixth.
With Ott Tanak having crashed the Pirelli Star Driver Mitsubishi out of ninth this morning, Jari-Matti Latvala has now got back into the points following his Saturday roll, and should soon claim ninth from S2000 driver Dennis Kuipers.
Pos Driver Car Time/Gap
1. Sebastien Loeb Citroen 2h29m14.0s
2. Petter Solberg Citroen + 16.5s
3. Dani Sordo Citroen + 30.3s
4. Mikko Hirvonen Ford + 1m05.6s
5. Sebastien Ogier Citroen + 3m21.7s
6. Kimi Raikkonen Citroen + 5m00.0s
7. Federico Villagra Ford + 5m39.2s
8. Matthew Wilson Ford + 6m41.4s
9. Dennis Kuipers Ford + 18m45.2s
10. Jari-Matti Latvala Ford + 19m19.3s