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Loeb all but assured of Monte hat-trick?


Citroen's Sebastien Loeb looks practically invincible following the second day of the Rallye Automobile Monte Carlo.

The Frenchman finished SS9 with nearly a two-minute advantage over Peugeot ace, Marcus Gronholm, and following the exit of his team-mate, Francois Duval in SS6, has no real competition.

Should Loeb win tomorrow, then this will be the third year on the trot that he has taken victory at the Principality, after also triumphing in 2004 and 2003.

"I am generally pleased with my day," he said. "I felt very comfortable with the car and I made three good tyre choices. The team has done a fantastic job and I really want to obtain a good result for them."

Gronholm meanwhile is locked in a three-way battle for second, just 13.6 seconds up on Ford's Toni Gardemeister, while Petter Solberg is also in contention, just 9.2 seconds further adrift in his Subaru Impreza.

"Today has been much better and I'm quite pleased actually with the performance," said Solberg. "The car has been very good to drive on the stages, and the harder compound tyres have suited my driving very well. Loeb is a long way away, but we're getting closer to the people in front, so we will have to see what we can do tomorrow."

Gilles Panizzi lies' fifth - the Frenchman having had a brilliant day, his stage win in SS8, a real boost for Mitsubishi and their new car, the Lancer Evo WRC05. His team-mate, Harri Rovanpera is seventh, while Markko Martin is sixth.

"I said yesterday that if we get a clean run, we can prove that Mitsubishi is back! I am so happy; that result was so necessary for everyone," stated Panizzi.

"Before our fastest time I was very content to be repeating our fourth fastest time; that was great and it really proved something. To have then achieved what we did this afternoon was something special for the team and I am more and more confident. Tomorrow we will be driving to the maximum again and hopefully we can catch Petter."

In the Junior WRC category, it is all change, with Kosti Katajamaki now leading, just 13.3 seconds up on Britain's Kris Meeke, while Alan Scorcioni completes the provisional podium.



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