Loeb off to quick start in France

Newly crowned world rally champion Sebastien Loeb has stamped his authority on the Rallye de France in Corsica by dominating the opening two stages on Friday

Loeb off to quick start in France

The Frenchman had managed to open up a 26.7 seconds advantage over Peugeot's Marcus Gronholm by the end of the Aullene to Arbellara run, with Ford's Toni Gardemeister a further one second adrift in third place.

Loeb had kicked off his bid to win the Corsica event for the first time in perfect style when he managed to outpace Gronholm by 13.1 seconds over the opening 32.88 kilometres stage from Ampaza to Col St. Eustache.

He then managed to beat Citroen's Francois Duval by 12.1 seconds over the second stage, to leave himself firmly established as the event favourite at this early stage.

Although Loeb looks comfortable at the head of the field, the battle for second spot is closely contested with just seven seconds covering Gronholm in second down to Petter Solberg in fifth.

Gardemeister's third fastest times in both stages has left him hot on the heels of Gronholm, while Duval's fourth fastest time on stage one has left him fourth overall, just 1.5 seconds behind the Ford driver.

Solberg was fifth in the first stage and fourth on the second stage to end the morning session 33.6 seconds off the lead.

The damp and icy-like conditions on the first stage caught out a few of the front-running drivers, with Subaru duo Chris Atkinson and Stephane Sarrazin and Peugeot's Nicolas Bernardi all spinning at a hairpin and losing time. 

Atkinson retired after suffering clutch problems on the road section between SS1 and SS2.

Standings after SS2:

Pos Driver Make Time  1. Loeb Citroen 37:09.3 2. Gronholm Peugeot 37:36.0 + 26.7 3. Gardemeister Ford 37:37.0 + 27.7 4. Duval Citroen 37:38.5 + 29.2 5. Solberg Subaru 37:42.9 + 33.6 6. Sarrazin Subaru 37:58.7 + 49.4 7. Sola Ford 37:59.0 + 49.7 8. Bengue Skoda 38:25.6 + 1:16.3 9. Kresta Ford 38:27.9 + 1:18.6 10. Pons Citroen 38:45.7 + 1:36.4 11. Galli Mitsubishi 38:47.3 + 1:38.0 12. Rovanpera Mitsubishi 38:49.5 + 1:40.2 13. Panizzi Mitsubishi 38:53.0 + 1:43.7 14. Schwarz Skoda 38:54.9 + 1:45.6 15. Bernardi Peugeot 38:58.6 + 1:49.3 16. Warmbold Ford 39:00.0 + 1:50.7 17. Vouilloz Skoda 39:16.1 + 2:06.8 18. Kopecky Skoda 40:11.2 + 3:01.9 19. Sordo Citroen 40:13.7 + 3:04.4 20. Meeke Citroen 40:29.1 + 3:19.8 All Timing Unofficial 
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