Loeb on brink of New Zealand win


Sebastien Loeb remains on course for Rally New Zealand victory as the arrival of the forecast rain on the final morning failed to shake up the order.

Citroen requested on Saturday night that its drivers Loeb and Mikko Hirvonen halt their close battle and hold station in first and second through Sunday's stages, which allowed Hirvonen - who only had inappropriate hard tyres left for the wet stages - to take it very easy, letting Loeb pull 17.4 seconds clear.

Ford's Petter Solberg has been unable to gain from the change in weather and is still 1m32s behind in third.

The action elsewhere in the top six has been closer. Ott Tanak started the day closing in on his fourth-placed M-Sport Ford team-mate Evgeny Novikov, before the Russian responded and re-established a 21.8s cushion.

Qatar Citroen driver Thierry Neuville has gained on both of them, his crossover mixture of hard and soft tyres working extremely well as he took two stage wins to get within 16.3s of Tanak and edge 22.6s clear of Dani Sordo, although the Mini had gained a little by winning the Auckland Domain superspecial.

Three more stages remain after midday service to decide the final result.