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All the world's best are crashing

Seven time WRC champion Sebastian Loeb has accepted responsible for his crash today. Image: WRC
Seven time WRC champion Sebastian Loeb has accepted responsible for his crash today. Image: WRC

3.30pm: SEBASTIEN Ogier has crashed on Rally Australia's sixth stage.

The Citroen driver moved into the lead of the world championship qualifier when team-mate Sebastien Loeb rolled on the fourth stage of the rally but hit trouble towards the end of the second Shipmans test.

It has been reported that Ogier - who could have drawn level with Loeb in the race for the world title had he scored 25 points for winning the event - hit a tree and then stopped approximately one kilometre later.

1pm: LOEB, the seven-time title winner, had raced into a two-second lead after going fastest on today's first test.

But barely a handful of kilometres into stage four, Loeb was in deep trouble when he rolled into a retirement in increasingly slippery conditions caused by heavy rain.

The world championship leader and his co-driver Daniel Elena were unharmed but it's not clear whether they will be able to restart under SupeRally regulations on day two, depending on the level of damage inflicted to their factory machine.

Pictures of Loeb's crash and Ken Block's mishap are working their way down the hill from Lowanna to the Rally Australia media centre. Feeds are expected this afternoon.

That could have a major bearing on the world championship scrap with team-mate Sebastien Ogier 25 points adrift at the start of the gravel round.

Loeb's rare misfortune - he last rolled on the Acropolis Rally in June 2009 two years, two months and 27 days ago - has handed top spot in Australia to Ogier, whose advantage over Ford's Mikko Hirvonen is 9.1s at the midday service at Coffs Harbour's regional airport.

"It's pressure but it's difficult to drive, very slippery," Ogier said.

"The tyres are not working so I have to drive with no risk. The plan is still the same, we try to do a good rally and score good points. That's it for me. The rally is still long and anything can happen."

Hirvonen, in a Ford Fiesta RS WRC, reported a loss of confidence in the slippery conditions to the extent he suffered a brief off-road moment close to the finish of stage three.

He is 15.6s clear of team-mate Jari-Matti Latvala, who suffered a scare of his own when he spun into a bank on Friday's first run.

Petter Solberg impressed with the fastest time through stage four but a high-speed spin dropped the Citroen privateer behind Latvala in the overall standings.

Evgeny Novikov is fifth after five stages in his M-Sport Stobart Fiesta. He heads team-mates Henning Solberg and Matthew Wilson, who have both suffered spins in their similar cars.

Peter van Merksteijn Jr is an impressive eighth in his privateer Citroen following a moment on stage four.

Production Car world championship leader Hayden Paddon is ninth overall and on course for the class title. Khalid Al Qassimi completes the top 10 in his Team Abu Dhabi Fiesta.

Monster World Rally Team's Ken Block stopped on stage three, where several PWRC drivers hit trouble, including Leigh Gotch, Harry Hunt and Jukka Ketomaki.

Daniel Oliveira also lost time on stage three after when he went off the road in his Brazil World Rally Team MINI John Cooper Works WRC.

Australian PWRC drivers Brendan Reeves and Nathan Quinn have both suffered power problems, while Michal Kosciuszko suffered suspension damage brushing a bank on Friday's first test.

Action resumes with the repeat of the 29.03-kilometre Shipmans stage, which goes live on www.wrc.com at 14:42hrs local time.

Topics:  coffs world rally championship 2011