Ford handed Citroën's Sébastien Loeb the lead at the end of the first leg of the Rally of Turkey yesterday in a ploy to keep the world champion in the unwanted role of "roadsweeper".
Loeb, who leads Ford's Mikko Hirvonen by one point after seven rallies, had been fourth and 15.1sec adrift of his Finnish rival after the day's penultimate Chimera 1 stage in the mountains near Antalya.
However, Hirvonen, compatriot and team-mate Jari-Matti Latvala and Italian Stobart Ford driver Gigi Galli eased off at the end of the final Phaselis 1 stage to push Loeb back to the top of the leaderboard.
The Frenchman, a second clear of Norwegian Henning Solberg in a Stobart Ford, will have to run first again today and effectively sweep the rough roads for his rivals. Just 6.9sec separated Loeb from Hirvonen, who slipped to fifth place, with Subaru's Norwegian Petter Solberg 49.1 seconds behind the leader in sixth. "What can I do?"asked Loeb, who also opened the roads yesterday as championship leader.
"In my position I can only drive and wait and see. They are behind so if they want to do some strategy, they have my time and I don't have their time." Loeb won the day's first stage but lost the lead to Hirvonen on the second.