6 Oct 2012

Loeb powers ahead in Rally France

11:04 am on 6 October 2012

The French rally star Sebastien Loeb is on course for a record ninth consecutive world title after dominating the opening day of the Rally of France.

Loeb has a commanding advantage over his only rival for the championship, Mikko Hirvonen, following wins for the Frenchman in four of the day's seven stages to take a 13.1-second lead over Finn Jari-Matti Latvala in a Ford.

Loeb's Citroen team-mate Hirvonen was 32.6 seconds off the pace and his third place overall was under threat as Norway's Petter Solberg finished the day only 0.7 seconds adrift.

Loeb will win a ninth consecutive title on Sunday if he holds on to a 56-point lead over Hirvonen.

He is 61 points ahead with two more rallies to follow the French one.

New Zealand driver Hayden Paddon leads the Super 2000 class by just 2.2 seconds over Irishman Craig Breen.

Paddon won five of the first day's seven stages.