Mikko Hirvonen and Jarmo Lehtinen strengthened their grip on the lead of Rally Finland during today's second group of speed tests amid the picturesque lakes and forests in the countryside near Jyväskylä.
The Ford World Rally Team pair led this ninth round of the FIA World Rally
Championship by 10.9s after the opening loop this morning, and extended that to 28.0s when the tests were repeated.
After winning all three special stages this morning, Hirvonen again won the first two tests on the second loop. His win on the 20.94km Himos test was decisive as the 29-year-old Finn was 13.5s faster than closest rival Sebastien Loeb
, who hit a pot hole and punctured the front right tyre.
With his lead doubled, Hirvonen eased his pace for the final stage, the 14.95km Surkee, and was second fastest.
"His puncture has taken the pressure off a little, but the lead isn't enough for me to relax," said Hirvonen. "I would like to extend it further this afternoon to make tomorrow easier. I've had no problems but the last section of the last stage was full of ruts and rocks so I was cautious there.
Today's final test is the longest of the rally and both that and the previous stage are new and have many tricky sections."
Team-mates Jari-Matti Latvala and Miikka Anttila also made good progress, climbing to third. Latvala, suffering from a stomach upset, closed in on third-placed Dani Sordo before setting fastest time in Surkee to move ahead of the Spaniard by 1.4s.
"I'm feeling better than I was this morning when I felt so sick that my only goal was not to lose too much time," said Latvala. "As I felt better my times improved and I was able to move ahead of Sordo. He is driving his best ever Rally Finland but now I've started to take time from him and I want to keep the same pace over the final three afternoon stages."