Citroen's Sebastien Loeb has increased his overnight lead this morning on Rallye Monte Carlo and he now heads into the mid-day halt with his advantage up to 1 minute 23.2 seconds.

Loeb, who began the day with a 1 minute 4.2 seconds cushion, dominated the first loop, winning all three stages. In SS5, the first test of the day, he was 2.9 seconds up on his closest rival. He then gained a further 8.6 seconds in SS6, before stretching his lead by another 3.3 seconds in SS7.

"The road conditions were less tricky to handle than yesterday," Loeb said. "The early starters had reported that there was a bit of ice, but it almost melted by the time we came through. Of course, there were some tricky spots with patches of very slippery black ice. We set the fastest time on all three stages, even with tyres that were too soft on SS7. The weather is not expected to change much this afternoon. We'll have to keep pushing and pick up time where we can."

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Meanwhile, Petter Solberg is now up to second, although the battle between him and Dani Sordo for the runners-up spot remains very close. Solberg moved 1.9 seconds ahead of the Spaniard in SS5, only to slip back in SS6. He regained the position in SS7 and now heads the MINI by 3.7 seconds.

Citroen's Mikko Hirvonen enjoyed a positive morning and moved up from sixth overall to fourth, albeit more than 1.5 minutes off the fight for second.

"We have moved up the field as planned, but I feel that I wasn't consistent enough," Mikko stated. "I am still having a little trouble getting into my stride. SS6 was pretty good as I set the second fastest time. In the morning's third stage, I made a mistake in combining two soft tyres with two supersoft tyres. The road was wetter than I had expected and I didn't feel confident. I have to keep working on my driving, which is still too aggressive for the Citroen."

Sebastien Ogier lies fifth, continuing to impress in his Volkswagen Motorsport-run Skoda Fabia S2000. Indeed the Frenchman was fourth quickest in the final test of the loop and lies only 12.5 seconds off the man that replaced him at Citroen for 2012.

Evgeny Novikov had moved ahead of Ogier in SS6, but he slipped back in the final test of the loop. The M-Sport Ford WRT man trails the Fabia S2000 by 2.6 seconds.

"We made the right tyre choice so that was good," said Novikov. "The stages are very difficult and in some places I went a bit too easy as I didn't know what was there. On the final stage [SS7] we also touched a curb going over the bridge which damaged the rear left wheel a little - nothing serious but because of that we lost some time for sure. Apart from that everything else is all ok. We're driving our own rally so we'll just try and do the same this afternoon."

Further back, Novikov's M-Sport Ford team-mates, Francois Delecour and Ott Tanak lie seventh and ninth respectively, with the second works MINI of Pierre Campana sandwiched in between.

"It was not so good this morning," said Delecour. "We had problems with the intercom which meant that it was impossible to hear Dominique [Savignoni] in the first two stages [SS5 and SS6]. Because of this my concentration was not fully on the road and we had a little moment where I started to brake late. We lost the front bumper but we didn't lose too much time. This afternoon we'll try to do a little better. We lost some time this morning and I want to make it back this afternoon."

"It's been quite okay," Tanak added. "I think I didn't have the best tyres for the first two stages [SS5 and SS6] but the last one [SS7] was much better. We're going at our own pace and not looking too much at everyone else's times. Let's wait until we are closer to them for that. This is a long rally and the most important thing for us is to get to the end."

SWRC class leader P-G Andersson rounds out the top ten, with Kevin Abbring eleventh and Britain's Matt Wilson twelfth.

"We've been very cautious again this morning, as we have all week, but it's not been too bad," Wilson commented. "We experimented with the tyres which didn't really work with a lot of sliding in the last stage [SS7]. The car stalled on SS6 which was a bit strange - it felt as if the launch didn't work. We're going to try a few different things in service and see how that works. We'll make the springs a bit stiffer and basically just use the event as a bit of a test."

"Everything seems to be going okay," added Henning, who is 16th in the sister Go Fast Energy WRT car. "We set a really good time in the second stage [SS6]. I was very happy and everything was getting better and better. But we had an engine misfire in the last stage [SS7] which cost us maybe 25 seconds. Apart from that, everything is good and I'm just driving at my own pace."

The action now continues this afternoon with a repeat-run through this morning's tests to conclude the second day. SS8, Labatie d'Andaure-Lalouvesc 2, is scheduled to start at 14.50 hours local time.

Rally Monte Carlo: Overall standings after Stage 7 (Top 10):

1. Sebastien Loeb Citroen Total WRT DS3 WRC 2hours 08mins 12.1secs M
2. Petter Solberg Ford WRT Fiesta RS WRC +01mins 23.2secs M
3. Dani Sordo MINI WRC Team John Cooper Works WRC +01mins 26.9secs M
4. Mikko Hirvonen Citroen Total WRT DS3 WRC +03mins 00.9secs M
5. Sebastien Ogier Volkswagen Motorsport Skoda Fabia S2000 +03mins 13.4secs
6. Evgeny Novikov M-Sport Ford WRT Fiesta RS WRC +03mins 16.0secs M
7. Francois Delecour M-Sport Ford WRT Fiesta RS WRC +04mins 07.9secs
8. Pierre Campana MINI WRC Team John Cooper Works WRC +05mins 31.6secs M
9. Ott Tanak M-Sport Ford WRT Fiesta RS WRC +05mins 35.8secs M
10. P-G Andersson Proton Motorsport Satria Neo S2000 +07mins 02.7secs S


11. Kevin Abbring Volkswagen Motorsport Skoda Fabia S2000 +07mins 48.9secs
12. Matthew Wilson Go Fast Energy WRT Fiesta RS WRC +09mins 14.2secs
13. Martin Prokop Czech Ford National Team Fiesta RS WRC +10mins 05.0secs
14. Armindo Araujo Armindo Araujo WRT MINI Cooper Works WRC +10mins 40.9secs M
15. Craig Breen Ford Fiesta S2000 +11mins 54.6secs S
16. Henning Solberg Go Fast Energy WRT Fiesta RS WRC +12mins 02.9secs
17. Cedric Robert Citroen DS3 R3T +15mins 03.6secs
18. Michal Kosciuszko Mitsubishi Lancer Evo X +15mins 21.7secs P

SWRC standings after Stage 7:

1. P-G Andersson Proton Motorsport Satria Neo S2000 2hours 15mins 14.8secs S
2. Craig Breen Ford Fiesta S2000 +04mins 51.9secs S

PWRC standings after Stage 7:

1. Michal Kosciuszko Mitsubishi Lancer Evo X 2hours 23mins 33.8secs P
2. Louise Cook Ford Fiesta ST 53mins 41.8secs P

Notable retirements:*

SS1. Giandomenico Basso Proton Motorsport Satria Neo S2000 Accident. S
SS2. Lorenzo Bertelli Mitsubishi Lancer Evo IX Gearbox P
SS3. Julien Maurin Ford Fiesta RS WRC Mechanical
SS4. Jari-Matti Latvala Ford WRT Fiesta RS WRC Rolled M
SS4. Thierry Neuville Citroen Junior WRT DS3 WRC Retired

SS5. Peter van Merksteijn Sr van Merksteijn Motorsport Citroen DS3 WRC Mechanical

* Note: There is no Rally 2 (as the SupeRally has been renamed for this year) on Rallye Monte Carlo.

all times unofficial