Day 3 am: More mayhem

Sebastien Loeb's advantage increased yet further on the opening loop of leg three in Monte Carlo, as his nearest challengers Marcus Gronholm and Petter Solberg both joined the event's casualty list within a few miles of each other on SS12

Day 3 am: More mayhem

Solberg had been on a mission this morning, setting the pace on the first two stages to pass Toni Gardemeister for third, and move to within 9s of second-placed Gronholm.

Then Gardemeister suddenly found himself back on the podium as both Gronholm and Solberg came to grief on the La Bollene Vesubie-Sospel 1 stage. Solberg ripped the left front wheel from his Subaru Impreza and was forced into immediate retirement, while Gronholm damaged the same part of his Peugeot 307 but was able to limp to the stage finish. He lost five minutes in the process however, and now faces a 44km road section before he can get to the service area for repairs.

Loeb therefore now leads new second placed man Gardemeister by 2m29s, with Gilles Panizzi up to third and currently on course for Mitsubishi's first podium finish since Tommi Makinen won the 2001 Safari Rally. With Panizzi now just 29s behind Gardemeister and setting some very quick times this morning, the podium battle remains on.

Markko Martin remains a distant but consistent fourth, with Gronholm emerging from the stage in fifth but potentially out of the rally if he cannot make it back to service. That would further promote Manfred Stohl, the Austrian producing some excellent times this morning as he gets more accustomed to his Kronos Citroen Xsara.

Stohl and Harri Rovanpera were promoted into the points prior to this morning's action, as Ford's Roman Kresta and Skoda's Alex Bengue were given five-minute time penalties. The pair had both damaged their suspension on Saturday's final stage, and although they passed the flying finish they were unable to reach the service area within the permitted time. They are recovering strongly though, with Kresta setting the fastest time overall on SS12.

Just outside the top ten, Kris Meeke (Citroen C2) has been making up for his leg two error by setting the JWRC pace, taking the category lead from Suzuki driver Kosti Katajamaki on SS12.



Sebastien Loeb (Citroen Xsara) 3h32m20.0s
Toni Gardemeister (Ford Focus) 3h34m49.1s
Gilles Panizzi (Mitsubishi Lancer) 3h35m15.0s
Markko Martin (Peugeot 307) 3h36m56.3s
Marcus Gronholm (Peugeot 307) 3h39m31.1s
Manfred Stohl (Citroen Xsara) 3h39m54.8s
Harri Rovanpera (Mitsubishi Lancer) 3h39m58.8s
Roman Kresta (Ford Focus) 3h41m16.4s
Alexandre Bengue (Skoda Fabia) 3h41m49.9s
Antony Warmbold (Ford Focus) 3h45m30.1s

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