Sebastien Loeb managed to more than double his lead on day 3 of the Rallye Monte Carlo on Saturday and the Frenchman now looks increasingly assured of taking the victors laurels.
man was second quickest in the first test of the day - 2 seconds off his team-mate, Daniel Sordo
- before he topped the leaderboard in SS10 and SS11, 1.2 seconds up on Sordo in St Bonnet 1 and 8.9 seconds up on Francois Duval in Lamastre 1.
With Sordo having to pull out in SS11 though due to engine problems, Seb saw his margin over second place go from around almost a minute to nearly two. He subsequently returned to the mid-day service at Valence with a 1 minute 53.5 second lead.
In the afternoon he managed to further increase his advantage - securing two more stage wins and taking his tally to ten stage victories in total from a possible 14.
He will now go into Sunday's final leg with a 2 minute 10.6 second lead and with that record fifth Monte victory well within touching distance.
"I really like the atmosphere on this rally. The spectators are exceptional. I will start managing my lead but I am not in the most comfortable situation," said Loeb.
"However I am better off in my shoes rather than in Hirvonen's! Today's bad news was Dani's retirement because it has a negative impact on our result for the manufacturers' championship."
Mikko Hirvonen meanwhile has now inherited the runners-up spot following Sordo's misfortune. The BP Ford
Abu Dhabi WRT #1 had been hoping to cut the deficit to Dani this morning but actually lost out in SS9 and SS10.
In the afternoon he continued to push, setting three more top four stage times and ensuring he remains well in front of his closest rival, Chris Atkinson, who is 52 seconds adrift.