Loeb set to clinch 9th straight world rally title
STRASBOURG, France (AP) Sebastien Loeb remains on course to clinch his ninth consecutive world title after winning four of seven stages at the Rally France on Friday.
The Frenchman, who will partially retire from rally driving next season, leads Mikko Hirvonen of Finland by 61 points overall and needs to finish only ahead of his Citroen teammate to clinch the world crown.
Jari-Matti Latvala of Finland gave Loeb some competition by winning the third and sixth stages - both ahead of Loeb - and the short final stage through Mulhouse, ahead of Norway's Petter Solberg.
Latvala is 13.1 second behinds Loeb in second place.
"We made a very good choice of tires (this) morning, which meant we were able to move into the lead straight away," Loeb said. "Everything's going well, but a 13-second lead isn't much when there are two days of racing left."
Hirvonen is in third place, but he is more than 30 seconds behind Loeb and his chances of catching him appear remote.
In total the rally consists of 22 stages over a competitive distance of 404.14 kilometres (250.6 miles).
The 38-year-old Loeb will race on a part-time basis next season and will likely race in no more than five rallies.
Updated October 5, 2012