Mini's Dani Sordo leads Citroen driver Sebastien Ogier by just 0.2 seconds after SS12 as the battle for Rally of France victory gets ever more intense.
This morning's four stages have seen the lead change hands four times, although the contest is now a two-man fight as a puncture for Petter Solberg dropped the independent Citroen driver 40sec back in third.
Ogier won today's opening Hohlandsbourg stage, with Sordo clinging on to the lead and the top three closing to within 0.8sec of each other. A fastest time on SS10 then brought Solberg into the lead by 0.6sec over Sordo, before Ogier jumped from third to first on Vallee de Munster, where Solberg dropped back with his puncture.
But Sordo was not defeated, and it was the Mini that was quickest on the loop-ending Grand Ballon stage, putting him back into the lead by just two tenths.
"I did a good time and the car was working perfectly, so I'm happy," said Sordo. "It's hard, always when you're fighting for a rally [win] it's hard, but it's really nice because you need to be really, really concentrated."
Ogier said gravel brought onto the course by the cars ahead was hampering him a little, but also acknowledged that Sordo and the Mini were extremely impressive.
"It's a big fight' the stage was a bit difficult," said Ogier. "There was a lot of gravel on the road because they cut, so it's a disadvantage. But Dani is driving very well. I think the Mini is good – it's impossible to do these times with a bad car."
In the second Mini, Kris Meeke spent the morning coming under increasing pressure from the Fords. Jari-Matti Latvala moved into fourth on SS12 when Meeke had a quick trip off the road, but a baffled and frustrated Hirvonen is now 26sec behind them. Punctures for both Mads Ostberg's Stobart Ford and Armindo Araujo's Italia Mini this morning mean Dennis Kuipers (FERM Ford) is up to seventh.
After a puncture yesterday, Stobart driver Evgeny Novikov was heading back toward the points today before going off the road on SS11.
Leading positions after SS12:
Pos Driver Team/Car Time/Gap
1. Dani Sordo Mini 2h01m29.5s
2. Sebastien Ogier Citroen + 0.2s
3. Petter Solberg Solberg Citroen + 40.9s
4. Jari-Matti Latvala Ford + 1m21.1s
5. Kris Meeke Mini + 1m21.6s
6. Mikko Hirvonen Ford + 1m47.7s
7. Dennis Kuipers FERM Ford + 4m21.4s
8. Armindo Araujo Italia Mini + 4m36.5s
9. Henning Solberg Stobart Ford + 4m58.9s
10. Mads Ostberg Stobart Ford + 5m58.5s