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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