(CNN) -- Sebastien Loeb maintained his world championship challenge by claiming the lead after the second day of the Catalunya Rally as he edged Citroen teammate Dani Sordo.
Loeb powered into the lead in the all-conquering Citroen in Catalunya.
The Frenchman is bidding for a sixth straight world title, but trails Mikko Hirvonen of Finland by five points in the overall standings as they contest the penultimate round in Spain.
Ford ace Hirvonen is third -- 48.5 seconds behind -- after Saturday's special stages and apparently resigned to that position ahead of the final round of the championship in Britain in three weeks time.
"Against Citroens on tarmac it looks like third is the only place I can take," Hirvonen told the official Web site www.wrc.com.
"I couldn't do much more and ... we're closer though, and that's good news."
Loeb, bidding for his fifth Catalunya win in a row, is fully aware that he is being pushed all the way by home driver Sordo, who led after the first day.
"Yup, I'm in the lead but not by a lot," he said.
"This stage was difficult, but the main thing is we got through the day OK and with no punctures. I'm very happy to be in the lead but there's a long day still to come tomorrow."
Citroen, who confirmed that Loeb and Sordo would remain with the team in 2010, can clinch the constructors' world crown with a one-two finish in Catalunya.
Subaru driver Petter Solberg is fourth, one minute 10.9 seconds behind with promising Sebastien Ogier of Citroen in fifth place heading into the final day.