- rallying - Sebastien Loeb - WRC
AFP - Five-time world champion Sebastien Loeb surged to the lead in the Rally of Catalunya on Saturday.
The French driver finished the day 1.5sec ahead of Citroen teammate and overnight leader Dani Sordo with Mikko Hirvonen, in a Ford, third at 48.5sec.
The race, which finishes Sunday, is the penultimate leg of the 2009 championship race, in which Finnish ace Hirvonen currently leads Loeb by only five points in the standings.
"I'm in the lead, but not by a lot," said Loeb. "The stage was difficult, but the main thing is we got through the day okay and with no punctures.
"I'm very happy to be in the lead but there's a long day still to come tomorrow. We'll see how we do."
Hirvonen admitted to feeling the pressure after Sordo and Loeb dominated from early in the day, and the Ford Focus driver could only lament losing time at key points on the course.
"Against Citroens on tarmac it looks like third is the only place I can take," joked Hirvonen.
"It’s been a good day. But it's a bit like history repeating itself; on Friday in Spain we lose a lot, on Saturday we get closer. I couldn’t do much more and there's still more to do for next year - both from me and the car. We're closer though - and that's good news."
The 2009 world championship concludes with the Rally of Britain, in Wales, in three weeks' time.