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Loeb cruising towards win and title

Sebastien Loeb, Citroen, France 2010Sebastien Loeb maintained his 43-second lead in the Rally of France through the second day, and just has to complete four stages on Sunday to take his 60th rally win and his seventh straight title.

Citroen driver Loeb drove conservatively this afternoon, not taking any stage wins on the treacherous and increasingly muddy roads, but not looking in any danger whatsoever of seeing his lead diminish.

His team-mate Dani Sordo is now more comfortable in second too, the pursuing Sebastien Ogier (Citroen Junior) having retired on SS15 with suspension problems.

Petter Solberg took two stage wins on the latest loop in his self-run Citroen, but remains 31.4s behind Sordo in third place.

The Norwegian has pulled clear of Ford's Jari-Matti Latvala, though, helped by the Finn spinning on the final stage of the loop, leaving him 20s adrift of Solberg.

Mikko Hirvonen remains a lonely fifth in the second Ford, while Ogier is still classified sixth despite retiring, as the team has already entered him for leg three under superally rules.

The battle between Federico Villaga (Munchi's Ford) and Matthew Wilson (Stobart Ford) for the minor points has closed up, with just 2.9s separating them in seventh and eighth after leg two.

Henning Solberg holds ninth in the S2000 Ford, while the tight battle between the registered SWRC championship contenders took another twist when a puncture delayed Eyvind Brynildsen on the final stage and handed Patrik Sandell a 14s lead.

The Junior category also saw changes of lead, as first Thierry Neuville, then Hans Weijs Jr sustained punctures after hitting rocks (twice in long-time leader Neuville's case). Their problems allowed wildcard entrant Jeremi Ancian to hit the front. Things were more serene in the Production class, where Armindo Araujo continues to dominate.

Spectator congestion has again caused delays throughout the delay, with the final stage starting half an hour later, and then halted for a long time following the first nine cars so further crowd issues could be attended to before the S2000 competitors were allowed in.

Pos  Driver              Car        Time/Gap
 1.  Sebastien Loeb      Citroen  2h46m39.2s
 2.  Dani Sordo          Citroen     + 42.8s
 3.  Petter Solberg      Citroen   + 1m14.2s
 4.  Jari-Matti Latvala  Ford      + 1m34.2s
 5.  Mikko Hirvonen      Ford      + 3m23.5s
 6.  Sebastien Ogier     Citroen  + 11m14.1s
 7.  Federico Villagra   Ford     + 13m27.0s
 8.  Matthew Wilson      Ford     + 13m29.9s
 9.  Henning Solberg     Ford     + 14m57.8s
10.  Patrik Sandell      Skoda    + 15m38.4s
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