Citroen's Sebastien Loeb
has concluded day three of Rallye Monte Carlo by taking another stage win and extending his lead to 1min 47.4secs.
Loeb began Friday's action with a commanding advantage, but despite that he was quickest through the first test, SS11, and then after the 'mid-day' service, continued to push. Indeed while he settled for fifth in SS12, he was back on it in SS13 in his DS3 WRC car, 8.7 seconds faster than anyone else, as he powered to his second stage win of the day – and his seventh of the event. Now only Saturday's action stands between him and his 77th career WRC victory, as the rally moves from Valence to Monte Carlo.
"I enjoyed it less this afternoon than this morning," Loeb noted. "On the first stage [SS12], the snow had melted in places so we didn't have the same grip on both sides of the car! The Sisteron stage [SS13] was totally dry and I would have preferred to have been on four slicks to push really hard. But overall, we made the right choice. So, now we're in Monaco, there's only one day left to go, but it won't be any easier than the first three. If it rains or snows on the Col du Turini, then there'll undoubtedly be some surprises!”
Behind, Sebastien Ogier
is on course for second on Volkswagen's very first outing in the sport with the Polo R WRC. Ogier set the second best time in SS11, before going fourth in SS12 and third in SS13.
"The conditions on the special stages at the Rally Monte Carlo were once again even more demanding today than on the previous days," Ogier said. "Today was the first time I have ever driven the opening stage of the day. On the second stage you constantly had to deal with changing surfaces. And the fast downhill sections on 'Sisteron' were also tricky. I didn't take any risks at all, but unfortunately lost a bit of time in a hairpin. Tyre selection was not particularly easy today."
Evgeny Novikov meanwhile is now up to third, having moved ahead of Dani Sordo in SS12, when the Spaniard had another spin. Novikov was second quickest in St Nazaire le Desert, just 2.1 seconds off his Qatar M-Sport WRT team-mate, Mads Ostberg, who set the pace. That left Sordo 8.6 seconds back on the overall leaderboard, until the Spaniard made up time in SS13 and closed to within 1.7 seconds.
"Today has been a good day and of course I am very happy with the position at the moment. Tomorrow we have another five stages so we will have to see what the weather will be, but for the moment we are happy," Novikov stated. "I think it is better for me if it is fully dry or full snow. We still have some difficulties in the mixed conditions, but it is not so bad. We are gaining a lot of experience and that is the most important thing."
"I made another mistake on SS12 and that was enough for Evgeny to get past," Sordo added. "The gap between us is tiny however so I'm going to fight hard to get past him again tomorrow."
Further back, Jari-Matti Latvala
was another on the move, and with Mikko Hirvonen
struggling in the final test of the day, the two former Ford men swapped places. Latvala now holds P5, 14.2 seconds ahead.