WRC: Mikko Hirvonen leads Rally of Italy after Sebastien Loeb crashes out
Last Updated: 19/10/12 6:48pm
Mikko Hirvonen: Has comfortable lead in Italy after speight of crashes
Mikko Hirvonen took a commanding lead after day two of the Rally of Italy as world champion Sebastien Loeb crashed out on Friday's third stage.
Frenchman Loeb claimed his ninth successive world title on home ground two weeks ago.
But in Sardinia Loeb's car hit a rock which forced it off the slick, narrow road after just five kilometres of the 30km Monte Lerno stage.
Loeb said: "We hit some rocks at the outside of a corner. I felt that the steering was damaged and tried to continue. But we had to stop."
The Citroen driver was the overnight leader by one second from his Finnish team-mate Hirvonen, who now leads the event.
Hirvonen is almost 70 seconds ahead of the M-Sport Ford of Evgeny Novikov after leading contenders Jari-Matti Latvala, Petter Solberg and Thierry Neuville were also taken out by crashes.
Hirvonen said: "They are dropping like flies. I must make sure I don't do any mistakes because there is still a long way to go. I have to stay focused."
Novikov's team-mate Ott Tanak lies third while the Skoda Fabia of Sebastien Ogier, who made history on stage five by becoming the first driver to triumph in a Super 2000-class car, is fourth.
Belgian driver Neuville's hopes were thwarted when he rolled his Qatar World Rally Team Citroen DS3 WRC.
Having started day two in fourth position overall, Neuville said: "I was not concentrating enough, didn't hear a pace note, and we went off.
"The car was on the side but we managed to continue although I have hurt my right hand because it was not easy (getting the car on its wheels) with just two persons."