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Loeb wins his third stage but Hirvonen still leads


Observers are speculating that French ace Sebastien Loeb has deliberately taken a time penalty to get a better running order on tomorrow's stages.

Frenchman Sebastien Loeb has won all three stages in Rally New Zealand this afternoon and would have taken the lead had he not picked up 30 seconds in time penalties.

Observers are speculating that the Citroen driver accrued the penalties deliberately to avoid starting first on the road tomorrow and being the road “sweeper,” clearing the tracks of surface gravel.

He ran first on the road today and lost time to the works Ford drivers on the first run through the set of three stages.

On the second run he was significantly quicker and had closed right in on rally leader Mikko Hirvonen (Ford) before picking up the penalties.

Hirvonen leads the rally now by 27.4 seconds from Loeb going into the day’s final test, the super special at Mystery Creek just south of Hamilton city.

If he’s still leading after the Mystery Creek test, Hirvonen will be first on the road tomorrow, and the stages are all run only once making the disadvantage even greater.

Kiwi Richard Mason is still leading the Group N (standard production) class in his Subaru Impreza, and is ahead of all of the production world championship contenders.

More from Rally NZ as the evening progresses.

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