SEBASTIEN Loeb made the most of a handful of small driving errors by his Citroen team-mate Sebastien Ogier to win the first pass of the 4.58-kilometre Clarence test, which will form the rally-closing Power Stage later this afternoon.

Loeb, out of contention following his roll on Friday, can rescue some drivers' championship points by winning the Power Stage. "I tried to push to be prepared for this afternoon," said Loeb.

Ogier, who has fought his way into the top 10, added: "I did a lot of mistakes in that stage so I am not happy."

Out front, Jari-Matti Latvala's lead over Ford team-mate Mikko Hirvonen remains at 19.7s after the Finns set the same time through the test with Latvala reporting another moment.

"I came too fast into one corner and lost time," said Latvala.

"I'll have to change my approach on that corner for the Power Stage this afternoon."

Henning Solberg suffered a low-speed roll in his M-Sport Stobart Fiesta but managed to continue following a delay of almost three minutes.

"I am sorry for that but I had to try," the Norwegian said.

"It was my fault but we are okay."

New Zealander Hayden Paddon continues to lead the Production Car World Rally Championship in his Subaru Impreza.

"We've got a good lead so we're taking it easy," said Paddon.

Russian Evgeny Novikov rolled into retirement on Rally Australia, round 10 of the World Rally Championship this morning.

Novikov, who had climbed to ninth in the overall standings at the wheel of his M-Sport Stobart Ford Fiesta RS WRC, left the road at high speed 7.3 kilometres into the 30-kilometre Plum Pudding test, regarded as the hardest of all on the Coffs Coast event.

While it remains unclear how much damage the Russian has inflicted to his car, both he and co-driver Denis Giraudet are reported to be uninjured.

Sebastien Ogier, who was running behind Novikov on the road, slowed to check both crew were okay.

"Evgeny had a big crash and the car was in the middle of the road in a fast place and we slowed down to see if they were okay, it's better like this," said the factory Citroen driver.

"We finished the stage slowly, it's difficult when you see a heavy crash like that."

Sebastien Loeb also stopped and said the muddy nature of the road thereafter forced him to "take it easy".

Jari-Matti Latvala continues to lead the rally despite reporting a moment approximately halfway through the stage. Driving a Ford Fiesta RS WRC, Latvala was actually able to extend his advantage over team-mate Mikko Hirvonen, who was 2.4s slower than his fellow Finn through the stage.

"This stage I kept the rhythm going to see how I was feeling," said Latvala.

"It's a very difficult stage to be honest and I had a bit of a moment in there where I ran a little wide [in a muddy section] so I'm going to have to stay focused."

Petter Solberg was second fastest through the stage and is now 38.3s behind second-placed Hirvonen.

"It was very tricky and also very muddy in some parts - it's a big difference from the recce," said the Citroen DS3 WRC privateer.

"I had an okay stage and changed a few pace notes around.

"It's very important to keep on the pace but not do a mistake."

Hirvonen said: "We didn't find a good rhythm at all, this was a bit more technical and it didn't go so well. But there were no moments, nothing."

Daniel Oliveira is reported to have stopped his Brazil World Rally Team MINI John Cooper Works WRC within the stage.

 



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