Loeb Makes Progress in Japan

Citroen's Sebastien Loeb took a step towards clinching his second straight world title by winning stage seven of the Rally of Japan on Friday

Loeb Makes Progress in Japan

The Frenchman won the stage by 11.5 seconds from Subaru's Petter Solberg, his nearest championship rival, to move into second place overall 16.7 seconds behind the Norwegian with two stages remaining of Friday's first leg.

Loeb, who only needs a podium finish in Japan to secure the world title, finished the stage 4.7 seconds ahead of Peugeot's Marcus Gronholm in third.

Subaru's Australian driver Chris Atkinson, who briefly led the rally early on, dropped to fourth.

Loeb, who has won a record eight out of 12 races this year, has 99 points in the drivers' championship with Solberg on 65 and Finn Gronholm on 61.

Loeb's title run-in has been overshadowed by the death of Briton Michael Park, a co-driver for Peugeot's Markko Martin, at last weekend's Rally of Britain.

Park died when their Peugeot skidded off the road at high speed and crashed into a tree during the 15th stage of the race.

The final stages of the race were cancelled and race leader Loeb took deliberate time penalties to ensure he did not win the title in such circumstances.

Standings after SS7:

Pos Driver Make Time  1. Solberg Subaru 1:19:21.7 2. Loeb Citroen + 16.7 3. Gronholm Peugeot + 21.4 4. Atkinson Subaru + 47.6 5. Rovanpera Mitsubishi + 1:28.5 6. Galli Mitsubishi + 1:33.8 7. Duval Citroen + 1:45.8 8. Kresta Ford + 2:21.0 9. Carlsson Peugeot + 2:22.9 10. Gardemeister Ford + 2:23.1 11. Sola Ford + 3:16.2 12. Warmbold Ford + 4:21.2 13. Schwarz Skoda + 4:42.6 14. Panizzi Mitsubishi + 5:47.3 15. Crocker Subaru + 8:16.6 16. Nutahara Mitsubishi + 8:22.0 17. Arai Subaru + 9:07.5 18. Kamada Subaru + 9:09.5 19. Teiskonen Subaru + 9:32.1 20. Pozzo Subaru + 9:52.4 All Timing Unofficial 

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