Sebastien Loeb now looks almost certain to win the 2012 Rallye Monte Carlo, with just Sunday's short 5.16 km Power Stage standing between him and his sixth victory at the Principality.

Loeb continued to extend his lead today, increasing his overnight advantage by 18.3 seconds on the first loop, before then stretching it by another 10.9 seconds this evening. He now concludes the fourth day with a 2 minute 41.6 second cushion over MINI man Dani Sordo, his closest rival, and barring a disaster will begin his bid to claim his ninth WRC drivers' title in the best way possible, by winning the opening round of the 2012 FIA World Rally Championship.

"It has been great and there is now just one small stage tomorrow [to go]," Loeb said at the end of SS17. "At the moment it has been good. It has been fantastic to drive in these two stages at night. It is a pleasure to be here and to be leading this rally. Hopefully we can win tomorrow."

Meanwhile, Sordo looks good to take the runners-up spot, and has a 19.1 second cushion over Petter Solberg.

Solberg put in a charge today in his Ford WRT Fiesta RS WRC, winning three of the four stages, to slash the gap to Sordo and also see off Mikko Hirvonen.

"Everything is all nice and I am just so happy," Solberg said. "I am enjoying this rally. I have been really welcomed into the Ford team and that is very important for me. I am a sensitive guy!"

Hirvonen had closed right up on 'Hollywood' on Friday, but today he slipped back and when he spun in SS16, losing around 10 seconds, he opted to ease off and make sure of fourth. The Finn ended the day more than a minute off the final podium place in his works Citroen DS3 WRC: "I spun in the first stage tonight and the fight was over after that," Hirvonen confirmed.

Evgeny Novikov completes the top five, almost two minutes further back, with his M-Sport Ford team-mate, 49-year-old, Francois Delecour sixth and finishing with a bit of a flourish, with two third fastest times in SS16 and SS17.

Further back, Pierre Campana lies seventh in the second MINI WRC Team entry, ahead of Ott Tanak, the third driver running under the M-Sport Ford WRT banner on this event, and then Martin Prokop, another Fiesta man.

Armindo Araujo rounds out the top ten in his MINI, with Britain's Matthew Wilson, Volkswagen Motorsport's Kevin Abbring in his Skoda Fabia S2000, Henning Solberg and Craig Breen in positions 11 through to 14.

Breen now heads the SWRC class, as Proton's P-G Andersson was forced out in SS16 with mechanical problems.

In the other support category, Michal Kosciuszko remains on course for the PWRC win in his Mitsubishi, although he was very slow through the final three stages of the day.

The event now concludes on Sunday with the final test, SS18 - the 5.16 km Ste Agn?s-Col de la Madone Power Stage - due to start at 10.11 hours local time [09.11 hours UK time].

Rally Monte Carlo: Overall standings after Stage 17 (Top 10):

1. Sebastien Loeb Citroen Total WRT DS3 WRC 4hours 29mins 12.1secs M
2. Dani Sordo MINI WRC Team John Cooper Works WRC +02mins 41.6secs M
3. Petter Solberg Ford WRT Fiesta RS WRC +03mins 00.7secs M
4. Mikko Hirvonen Citroen Total WRT DS3 WRC +04mins 05.6secs M
5. Evgeny Novikov M-Sport Ford WRT Fiesta RS WRC +06mins 00.8secs M
6. Francois Delecour M-Sport Ford WRT Fiesta RS WRC +06mins 55.7secs
7. Pierre Campana MINI WRC Team John Cooper Works WRC +08mins 21.3secs M
8. Ott Tanak M-Sport Ford WRT Fiesta RS WRC +10mins 27.2secs M
9. Martin Prokop Czech Ford National Team Fiesta RS WRC +16mins 06.3secs
10. Armindo Araujo Armindo Araujo WRT MINI Cooper Works WRC +16mins 09.2secs M


11. Matthew Wilson Go Fast Energy WRT Fiesta RS WRC +18mins 39.2secs
12. Kevin Abbring Volkswagen Motorsport Skoda Fabia S2000 +18mins 42.2secs
13. Henning Solberg Go Fast Energy WRT Fiesta RS WRC +20mins 11.3secs
14. Craig Breen Ford Fiesta S2000 +24mins 07.6secs S
15. Bryan Bouffier Peugeot 207 S2000 +27mins 19.0secs
16. Michael Burri Peugeot 207 S2000 +30mins 08.1secs
17. Cedric Robert Citroen DS3 R3T +31mins 58.8secs
20. Paulo Nobre Palmeirinha Rally MINI John Cooper Works WRC +38mins 38.0secs M
30. Michal Kosciuszko Mitsubishi Lancer Evo X +1hr 02mins 09.1secs P

SWRC standings after Stage 17:

1. Craig Breen Ford Fiesta S2000 4hours 53mins 19.7secs S

PWRC standings after Stage 17:

1. Michal Kosciuszko Mitsubishi Lancer Evo X 5hours 31mins 21.2secs P
2. Louise Cook Ford Fiesta ST +1hour 25mins 26.8secs 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
SS10. Sebastien Ogier Volkswagen Motorsport Skoda Fabia S2000 Accident

SS16. P-G Andersson Proton Motorsport Satria Neo S2000 Mechanical S

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

all times unofficial