Auckland: World champion Sebastien Loeb roared back into contention at the Rally of New Zealand on Saturday, winning all six gravel stages to finish the day in second place behind fellow Frenchman Sebastien Ogier.
The six-time champion, who started the day more than a minute and 19 seconds off the pace after crashing into a bridge during Friday’s first leg, is only 5.30 seconds adrift and will fancy his chances of notching his fourth consecutive victory on Sunday.
“It has been an incredible day, flat-out from the start to the end and now we’ve made up the gap to first place,” the Citroen driver told World Rally Championship’s website.
“We’re five seconds behind Sebastien and everything is possible again. I’m really happy. I think I couldn’t do better.”
Ogier, chasing his first victory in his second full season, started day two third behind first-leg leader Petter Solberg of Norway and Ford’s Jari-Matti Latvala but moved ahead of the pair on the day’s opening New Franklin stage.
Ogier then cemented his lead in his Citroen with the fastest time on the all-asphalt Hampton Downs Super Special, but is likely to have a torrid time fending off Loeb’s charge on Sunday.
“We had a good morning and we tried to push hard but Sebastien has just been too fast,” said Ogier.
Latvala is placed third behind Loeb, with the Frenchman’s team mate Daniel Sordo fourth.
Norwegian Solberg, who finished second behind Loeb in Turkey last month, fell back to fifth after struggling to cope with the loose gravel while running first on the road.