Loeb retains Finland lead

Frenchman has his lead cut by Hirvonen but is still on course

Last Updated: 03/08/12 11:05pm

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Sebastien Loeb: Will take five-second lead into the final day

Sebastien Loeb: Will take five-second lead into the final day

Sky Bet

Sebastien Loeb remains on course for his sixth World Rally Championship victory of the season despite seeing his lead trimmed on the second day in Finland.

Loeb went into the day with a 7.3-second cushion over works Citroen team-mate Mikko Hirvonen, and after a further nine stages the Frenchman's advantage was left at five seconds at the end of the day.

Home favourite Hirvonen had gone into the closing 2.06-kilometre superspecial stage just three seconds adrift of Loeb.

But despite the short distance at the Killeri trotting track in Jyvaskyla, Hirvonen managed to lose two seconds to his rival.

The duo are comfortably clear of factory Ford team-mates Jari- Matti Latvala and Petter Solberg, who are 20.3secs and 21.4secs off the pace respectively.

Long day

Loeb said: "It's a long final day tomorrow and we will see what we can do. The gap is so small. It will be a hard fight, but we have to do it correctly."

Hirvonen, currently trailing eight-time champion Loeb by 38 points in the standings, is convinced he can claim victory in what is an historic 500th rally of the championship.

"I was pushing really hard and so was Sebastien. Little by little I have taken time out of him. It will be a big fight tomorrow, but I am confident," Hirvonen said.

Mads Ostberg is on his own in fifth place in his Adapta Ford, 47.7secs behind Loeb, after rival for the position in Citroen Junior Team driver Thierry Neuville rolled his DS3 on stage 11 after failing to hear a pace note.

Ott Tanak is a further 50 seconds down in his M-Sport Ford in sixth, with the Estonian in turn 52 seconds clear of seventh-placed Autotek Ford's Jari Ketomaa.

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