Citroen's Sebastien Loeb stretched his advantage at the top of the Rallye Monte Carlo leaderboard this morning, after correctly opting to run with studs on all four tyres for the 24.13 km Cimetiere de Vassieux-Col de Gaudissart test.

Conditions through the second and final stage this morning were made tricky due to snow and ice, and Seb exploited that gaining more than 30 seconds to go into the 30 minute mid-day service in Valence with his cushion stretched to 2 minutes 9 seconds.

"It was the right choice of tyre [to go with full studs] but even with that it was very difficult to keep the car on the road," Loeb told the official WRC site. "The conditions changed a lot since my [safety] crew passed but I knew I had the best choice so I just went through. I'm happy to be at the end."

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Meanwhile the battle for second between MINI's Dani Sordo and Ford's Petter Solberg took a seemingly decisive turn. Solberg had moved up to second with the best time in SS11, however, he lost ground in SS12 having opted to run on slicks. As such Sordo, who ran with winter tyres, gained over a minute and is now 57.6 seconds in front.

"It was really tricky, very difficult," said Sordo. "At the beginning it was fine. But we lost a lot in the final part where there was snow."

"I almost went off," Solberg added. "It was unbelievable. There was so much water and black ice. I had slicks on the rear and no studs on the front. I just backed off..."

Mikko Hirvonen remains fourth, however he gained considerable time in Cimetiere de Vassieux-Col de Gaudissart after setting the pace, 3.7 seconds up on Loeb. Like his Citroen Total team-mate, he opted for full studs and that rewarded him with his first stage win with the DS3 WRC. Hirvonen now lies 39.3 seconds off the final podium place - the gap to third had been over 2 minutes after SS11.

"I am really happy to set my first fastest stage time with Citroen," Hirvonen said. "The team made the right choice by analysing information from the early starters and the weather forecast from Meteo France. Everything worked out well and I felt confident in the car with the four studded tyres fitted. It was very slippery, but the handling of the car was consistent. We have closed the gap to third position. I'm not going to take too many risks to catch Petter but there are still of lot of kilometres left to race..."

Further back, Evgeny Novikov is fifth. The Russian had got ahead of Hirvonen in the opening test this morning, when he was third fastest in his M-Sport Ford WRT-run Fiesta RS WRC. Like Solberg though, he had the wrong tyres in SS12 and slipped back down to P5.

"It was okay this morning. We did not choose the right tyres for the second stage [SS12], but there is nothing we can do about that. We just have to keep going. It was difficult to stay on the road. I had some small moments but nothing serious. Everything was okay," said Novikov. "There was a lot of water at the start of the second stage [SS12] and some ice in places. There was a lot of thick ice at the end and some fog. For sure it was a difficult stage, but we'll keep going this afternoon."

Novikov's team-mates Francois Delecour and Ott Tanak continue to hold sixth and eighth respectively, with Pierre Campana (who was third quickest in SS12) seventh in the second MINI WRC team entry.

"This stage [SS12] was a little bit different to last year! The first stage [SS11] was good [and I was second quickest] but for sure our tyre choices were not so good and we lost a lot of time in the second [SS12]," Delecour stated. "The rain came and the road was so slippery with ice that it was really difficult to see. It was really difficult to feel the grip. I saw the conditions at the start of the stage and I said 'ooh la la!'"

"It was really tricky this morning," added Tanak. "The tyres were quite okay for the first stage [SS11] but we lost more time than expected in the second [SS12], so not the right choice [of tyres] for us. It was raining quite heavily in places and some snow with lots of black ice and frost. For the last 4km it was complete ice and snow. It was also very foggy at the end of the stage and I could only see for about 20m in front of me. We'll see what the weather is doing this afternoon and decide which way to go. We've got some time so we'll see."

SWRC class leader, P-G Andersson and VW Motorsport man, Kevin Abbring complete the top ten, followed by Martin Prokop, Armindo Araujo, Matthew Wilson and Henning Solberg, the latter finishing SS12 with damage to one of his rear wheels.

"We damaged the rear right wheel on the second stage [SS12]. It is very slippery on a lot of corners up there, and we clipped the car at the last hairpin. It was my fault," Henning explained. "For sure we lost a lot of time. We must have been stationary for about a minute. It was very bad luck. There may be some damage to the suspension, but we got that fixed in service. We drove a really good stage in the first one [SS11], but we had the wrong tyres for the second [SS12]. That's just the way it is. We'll drive our best and hopefully make up some time in the afternoon."

"The second stage [SS12] was probably the most difficult stage of my life!" added Wilson. "It was unbelievable. About eight minutes before the stage started, the heavens opened and the mist came down. There was lots of ice on the stage, and for the last 6-7km it was full ice with only some lines in-between. It really was incredible.

"Really I think we should have taken six non-studded tyres like Dani [Sordo], which would have cleared most of the water from the stages. When you look back to Ireland 2009 with Jari-Matti [Latvala] when it was so wet, it proves how well that tyre worked. But, you live and learn. We had a bit of an 'off' at the top of the hill on the second stage [SS12] and had to reverse which lost us maybe 20 seconds. Then again, looking at the bigger picture, to lose 20 seconds on this stage is not too much of a bad thing!

"This afternoon, we'll see what the weather does and take everything into account. In my opinion, this is the way it should be. The tyre choice adds so much excitement and, for me, that's what rallying is all about!"

Day three now concludes this afternoon, with SS13 - the 29.89 kilometre run through Montauban sur Ouveze-Eygalayes, scheduled to start at 15.11 hours local time [14.11 hours UK time].

Rally Monte Carlo: Overall standings after Stage 12 (Top 10):

1. Sebastien Loeb Citroen Total WRT DS3 WRC 3hours 14mins 13.6secs M
2. Dani Sordo MINI WRC Team John Cooper Works WRC +02mins 09.0secs M
3. Petter Solberg Ford WRT Fiesta RS WRC +03mins 06.6secs M
4. Mikko Hirvonen Citroen Total WRT DS3 WRC +03mins 45.9secs M
5. Evgeny Novikov M-Sport Ford WRT Fiesta RS WRC +04mins 25.7secs M
6. Francois Delecour M-Sport Ford WRT Fiesta RS WRC +06mins 19.9secs
7. Pierre Campana MINI WRC Team John Cooper Works WRC +07mins 24.7secs M
8. Ott Tanak M-Sport Ford WRT Fiesta RS WRC +08mins 17.9secs M
9. P-G Andersson Proton Motorsport Satria Neo S2000 +12mins 15.0secs S
10. Kevin Abbring Volkswagen Motorsport Skoda Fabia S2000 +13mins 59.6secs


11. Martin Prokop Czech Ford National Team Fiesta RS WRC +14mins 10.3secs
12. Armindo Araujo Armindo Araujo WRT MINI Cooper Works WRC +14mins 16.7secs M
13. Matthew Wilson Go Fast Energy WRT Fiesta RS WRC +15mins 22.1secs
14. Henning Solberg Go Fast Energy WRT Fiesta RS WRC +17mins 15.6secs
15. Craig Breen Ford Fiesta S2000 +19mins 00.6secs S
16. Cedric Robert Citroen DS3 R3T +23mins 58.5secs
17. Michael Burri Peugeot 207 S2000 +24mins 27.1secs
18. Bryan Bouffier Peugeot 207 S2000 +25mins 17.4secs
21. Michal Kosciuszko Mitsubishi Lancer Evo X +27mins 58.6secs P

SWRC standings after Stage 12:

1. P-G Andersson Proton Motorsport Satria Neo S2000 3hours 26mins 28.6secs S
2. Craig Breen Ford Fiesta S2000 +06mins 45.6secs S

PWRC standings after Stage 12:

1. Michal Kosciuszko Mitsubishi Lancer Evo X 3hours 42mins 12.2secs P
2. Louise Cook Ford Fiesta ST +1hour 17mins 04.3secs 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
SS10. Sebastien Ogier Volkswagen Motorsport Skoda Fabia S2000 Accident

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

all times unofficial