Citroën driver Sébastien Loeb is confident of winning his maiden world rally on only his second drive in a world rally car.
Loeb has a commanding 26 second lead after the second day of action in the world's most famous rally the Monte Carlo.
Loeb, driving a Xsara World Rally Car, took advantage of his intimate knowledge of the precipitous mountain roads above the Mediterranean principality to protect his overnight lead of just over half a minute.
"I have competed on some of these roads when I was driving in a round of the French Rally Championship," said the young Frenchman. "And so I pushed as hard as I could at the start of today."
Loeb won the second stage of the day through Puget to open his lead even more. Established drivers, including no fewer than five world champions had no answer for Loeb's speed.
"I have pushed hard but the risks have not been enormous," said Loeb. "I have a comfortable lead and now hopefully I can ease off a little. It would be unfortunate to make a mistake when I am so close to my first win."
A charge late in the day by four time world champion and three time Monte Carlo winner Tommi Makinen focused Loeb's mind. The two traded fastest times like heavyweight boxers.
"This is my first Monte in an world rally car and Tommi has done it many times, so I am pleased with the way I was able to hold onto my lead. It will be a great battle on the final day. I want to win badly."