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Sebastien Loeb pulls away in Monte Carlo Rally lead as Mikko Hirvonen flies

Sebastien Loeb, Citroen, Monte Carlo 2012Sebastien Loeb continues to lead the Monte Carlo Rally after the penultimate full day, while a second straight stage win for his new Citroen team-mate Mikko Hirvonen brought the Finn closer to Petter Solberg's third place.

This afternoon's action consisted of just the 29-kilometre SS13, after which the field will head down from the World Rally Championship opener's initial base in Valence to Monte Carlo itself, ready for Saturday's afternoon and evening stages, and Sunday's power stage.

Loeb drove relatively conservatively through this afternoon's stage, still stretching his lead just a little to complete the leg with a 2m12.4s advantage over Dani Sordo's Mini in second place.

Sordo's position became even more secure on SS13 when Solberg was slightly delayed by damaging a wheel rim and giving his Ford a puncture a few kilometres from the finish.

Solberg is now 1m09.8s behind Sordo - and only 20.8s ahead of Hirvonen, who backed up his stage win on this morning's snow and ice affected SS12 with a fastest time in SS13's dry conditions too.

Hirvonen's performance today has also taken him out of reach of Evgeny Novikov. The Russian still holds an impressive fifth place on his Monte Carlo debut, a minute ahead of M-Sport Ford team-mate Francois Delecour.

Leading positions after SS13:

Pos  Driver             Team/Car        Time/Gap
 1.  Sebastien Loeb     Citroen       3h31m25.2s
 2.  Dani Sordo         Mini           + 2m12.4s
 3.  Petter Solberg     Ford           + 3m22.2s
 4.  Mikko Hirvonen     Citroen        + 3m43.0s
 5.  Evgeny Novikov     M-Sport Ford   + 4m28.2s
 6.  Francois Delecour  M-Sport Ford   + 6m39.1s
 7.  Pierre Campana     Mini           + 7m45.1s
 8.  Ott Tanak          M-Sport Ford   + 8m44.8s
 9.  P-G Andersson      Proton        + 13m20.8s
10.  Armindo Araujo     Araujo Mini   + 14m40.7s
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