Citroen's Sebastien Loeb has taken the lead on Rallye de France this morning, winning all three stages, and showing no signs at all of being 'rusty'.

Loeb said prior to the event that it might take him some time to adapt again, and while he was only seventh in the short Stasbourg Power Stage on Thursday, he soon re-asserted his authority when the event started 'proper' and in SS2, the 10.66km Klevener test, he edged out Dani Sordo by 0.9 seconds to move up to third overall.

The nine-time WRC champion was then quickest again in SS3, 1.4 seconds up on Thierry Neuville, before making it three from three in SS4, 0.9 seconds up on Neuville, who was again second.

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Loeb now heads into the mid-day service with a 3.7 second advantage over Volkswagen driver Jari-Matti Latvala and the signs are already pretty ominous for his rivals.

"It was tricky between the damp and the dry sections. The settings of the car were great though, and I managed to keep a constant temperature with the tyres in order to be efficient on the damp portions. The road is not too dirty after the first competitors but I feel anxious about the [forecast] rain this afternoon," Loeb stated.

Neuville is next up and third, just 1 second behind Latvala, in his Qatar WRT M-Sport Ford Fiesta RS WRC.

"We've had an OK morning with a clean run and a good tyre strategy. For sure it was the safer option going for a mixed tyre configuration, but then you also have the disadvantage of two spares and I could feel the extra weight under braking at times," Neuville noted.

"I tried to push on the first two stages [SS2 and SS3], but I was a bit steadier on the last one [SS4]. I could have gone quicker there, especially towards the end. Honestly, we were hoping for a bit more rain, but at the end of the day I was competitive over all three stages so - even though it is difficult to say - I think we made the right choice."

Then comes overnight leader Dani Sordo, who slipped from first to fourth in SS4 and who complained it was 'difficult to keep his Citroen DS3 WRC car on the road'.

"The conditions are not easy; I didn't feel confident. I believe we should have taken some soft compounds as the road was very slippery," stated the Spaniard.

New WRC champion Sebastien Ogier also lost out badly in Vosges-Pays d'Ormont 1, haemorrhaging over 20 seconds in the damp conditions: "I didn't feel confident and didn't push," said VW's number one. "It's hard to find the right pace. I believe it would have been easier with soft compounds on those roads."

Behind, Evgeny Novikov is sixth, 24.2 seconds further back, with Mikko Hirvonen seventh having lost time with a spin in SS4.

"This morning has been OK for us. We had a good start on the first stage [SS2], but as the rain started to fall on the second [SS3], we lost a lot of time," Novikov said. "Unfortunately, that is the nature of this event and I can't do anything to stop the weather - we just had to do the best we could and that is what we did on the last stage [SS4]. Given the conditions and the fact that we were running on the harder compound, I was happy with the time through SS4."

Andreas Mikkelsen, Mads Ostberg and Martin Prokop complete the top ten, with WRC2 class leader, Robert Kubica in P11.

Kubica set the WRC2 pace in all three tests and leads by over 3 minutes, after Robert Barrable and Elfyn Evans both hit problems. Barrable went off and into a ditch in SS3, while Evans had to stop and change a puncture in the same test.

In the other support categories, Quentin Gilbert heads WRC3, and Yeray Lemes leads the JWRC runners.

The action now resumes this afternoon with a repeat-run through this morning's three stages. SS5, Klevener 2, is due to start at 14.40 hours local time [13.40 hours UK time].

Rallye de France-Alsace: Overall standings after Stage 4 (Top 10):

1. Sebastien Loeb Citroen Total Abu Dhabi WRT DS3 WRC 36m 19.0s M
2. Jari-Matti Latvala Volkswagen Motorsport Polo R WRC +00m 03.7s M
3. Thierry Neuville Qatar WRT Ford Fiesta RS WRC +00m 04.7s M
4. Dani Sordo Abu Dhabi Citroen Total WRT DS3 WRC 03m 06.2s M
5. Sebastien Ogier Volkswagen Motorsport Polo R WRC +00m 22.3s M
6. Evgeny Novikov Qatar M-Sport WRT Ford Fiesta RS WRC +00m 46.5s M
7. Mikko Hirvonen Citroen Total Abu Dhabi WRT DS3 WRC +00m 48.2s M
8. Andreas Mikkelsen Volkswagen Motorsport II Polo R WRC +00m 51.2s M
9. Mads Ostberg Qatar M-Sport WRT Ford Fiesta RS WRC +00m 56.9s M
10. Martin Prokop Jipocar Czech National Team Ford Fiesta RS WRC +01m 25.7s M


11. Robert Kubica Citroen DS3 RRC +02m 20.5s WRC2
12. Romain Dumas Ford Fiesta RS WRC +02m 44.3s
13. Lionel Baud Ford Fiesta RS WRC +02m 50.3s
14. Quentin Gilbert Citroen DS3 R3T +04m 21.1s WRC3
15. Sebastien Chardonnet Citroen DS3 R3T +04m 33.8s WRC3

Rallye de France-Alsace: Power Stage / SS1 (Top 3):

1. Dani Sordo Abu Dhabi Citroen Total WRT DS3 WRC 03m 20.8s M
2. Thierry Neuville Qatar WRT Ford Fiesta RS WRC +00m 00.7s M
3. Sebastien Ogier Volkswagen Motorsport Polo R WRC +00m 00.8s M

NOTE: Top three finishers in Power Stage are awarded bonus points. 1st = 3 points; 2nd = 2 points; 3rd = 1 point

WRC2 standings after Stage 4 (Top 3):

1. Robert Kubica Citroen DS3 RRC 38m 39.5s WRC2
2. Rashid Al-Ketbi Ford Fiesta R5 +03m 03.6s WRC2
3. Elfyn Evans Qatar M-Sport WRT Ford Fiesta R5 +03m 13.7s WRC2

WRC3 standings after Stage 4 (Top 3):

1. Quentin Gilbert Citroen DS3 R3T 40m 40.1s WRC3
2. Sebastien Chardonnet Citroen DS3 R3T +00m 12.7s WRC3
3. Keith Cronin Citroen DS3 R3T +01m 05.9s WRC3

JWRC standings after Stage 4 (Top 3)

1. Yeray Lemes Ford Fiesta R2 41m 30.6s JWRC
2. Pontus Tidemand Ford Fiesta R2 +00m 08.5s JWRC
3. Hugo Arellano Ford Fiesta R2 +00m 45.3s JWRC

Notable retirements:


*denotes re-started under the Rally 2 regulations
M denotes Manufacturer entry

all times unofficial