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Mikko Hirvonen has increased his lead to 29.3 seconds as Rally Australia nears the end of Leg 2.

The Finn increased his advantage over the Subaru of Petter Solberg by 4.4 seconds after the final forest stage of Leg 2. The stage was again won by Hirvonen’s Finnish Ford team-mate, Marcus Gronholm.

Manfred Stohl is now ahead of Xevi Pons in third place, the pair switching places during the day’s stages. Stohl’s Peugeot has run reliably, as has Pons’ Citroen.

Hirvonen now just needs to make it through the final day’s stages in the narrow and tricky Mundaring forests to take his first World Rally Championship victory. Last year, Belgian Francois Duval scored his first and only WRC win, in a Citroen.

The last Telstra Rally Australia in Perth is proving to be somewhat a rally of attrition, although all of yesterday’s Leg 1 retirements amongst the World Rally Cars have completed the day.

Chris Atkinson has performed consistently if not spectacularly, while Marcus Gronholm is still eyeing a top five finish, despite his day one roll over.

In the ferocious battle for the Production World Rally Car (Group N) honours, Dean Herridge’s hopes of taking the win have improved after Japan’s Toshi Arai succumbed to the pace and rolled his Impreza on SS17.

Herridge still trails Ligato, Latvala and Baldacci, however his consistency could prove to be his greatest weapon over the final day’s tough stages.

Marcus Ligato is in fifth outright and leads the category by 27.6 seconds from Jari Matti Latvala, followed by Aki Teiskonen, and then Herridge in fourth. The Australian is in ninth outright, and has fallen behind the flying Gronholm, who is up to eighth.

For full results, check out www.wrc.com, or check out our exclusive photo gallery for some of the action from today’s stages.

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