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Loeb in P3 and set to take title.

Sebastien Loeb has said that he is trying not to think about the title, even though he is currently in third place on the Rally Japan and on course to clinch his fifth crown.

Loeb made a cautious start on Friday and was only sixth in SS1, but he soon bounced back, setting the second best time in SS2 and the quickest time in SS4. He then posted two third fastest times in the afternoon, moving up onto the provisional podium following Francois Duval's crash.

In the end the Citroen man concluded proceedings, which were considerably shorter than scheduled after SS3, SS7 and SS8 were cancelled, 4.4 seconds off Jari-Matti Latvala in second and 30.6 seconds off Mikko Hirvonen in first.

"Not an easy day ending with some misunderstandings with the marshals in the last two stages. They stopped us between the two passages in the Dome and we could not complete two laps in a row. Let's be positive though we are third tonight and it's going according to the plan," Seb stated.

"Of course I'm so sad that Patrick Pivato [Duval's co-driver] was injured. It's never funny to have these kinds of experiences. I would have preferred to fight for this provisional podium place."

Asked about the opening stage, the 13.24 kilometre-run through Heper, Loeb conceded that he was just too conservative and probably didn't push hard enough.

"I took the first stage really cautiously; too cautiously perhaps," he continued. "There was snow by the side of the road and I was worried we might come across ice, too. It was quite complicated to find the best compromise between outright speed and caution. It was easier to find a good rhythm for the following tests which were less treacherous.

"I tried to stay focused today but I also kept a close eye on the gaps in order to keep the pressure on our rivals. The first day is already over and that's a good thing. I hate driving defensively.

"I am happy with third place this evening and I am aware what that could bring us, although I'm trying not to think about the title. We've got a big day to come tomorrow and I expect the second leg stages to be very selective."


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