January 23, 2015

MONACO (AP) World rally champion Sebastien Ogier of France holds a commanding lead after day two of the season-opening Monte Carlo rally, while nine-time champion Sebastien Loeb's hopes of upstaging his countryman ended when his Citroen hit a rock on Friday's last stage.

Ogier leads Finland's Jari-Matti Latvala by 1 minute, 45.4 seconds and is 2:34.8 clear of Norway's Andreas Mikkelsen, boosting Volkswagen's hopes of a podium 1-2-3.

Having relinquished the overall lead after the seventh stage, Loeb's chances fell apart when his Citroen hit a rock and sustained heavy damage to the left rear tire. The 40-year-old Loeb, who has won Monte Carlo seven times, finished the day six minutes behind Ogier in 10th place.

''It happened when I hit a rock in an icy place. Not too hard, but it broke. I don't know exactly what, but something is wrong,'' Loeb said. ''I had to try really hard because I knew with the road conditions it was impossible in this (road) position, so I tried really hard with a different tire choice and made a mistake. Will it get back to service? I will try.''

The rally continues with four special stages on Saturday and three on Sunday.

The 31-year-old Ogier and Loeb had won a stage each on Thursday night, with Loeb - who is making a guest appearance - leading Ogier by 13 seconds overall.

The day started brightly for the 40-year-old Loeb, as he won the first special - a 16-kilometer (10-mile) dash from La Salle en Beaumount to Corps - ahead of Ogier to extend his lead to nearly 30 seconds.

Ogier trimmed back some time after finishing second to Poland's Robert Kubica on a longer 26-kilometer (16-mile) trek from Aspires Les Corps to Chauffayer, with Loeb back in fourth spot.

Kubica won the next, just ahead of Ogier, while Loeb lost significant time to lead by just three seconds. But he bounced back to win the day's fourth stage ahead of Latvala to push 6.6 seconds clear of Ogier, who was third.

Things then started to go wrong for Loeb as he drifted eight seconds behind Ogier overall after placing fourth in stage 7, with the impressive Kubica again finishing in front of Ogier.

Loeb ended his full-time rally career in 2012.

In announcing his return last year, he said he does not plan to take part in the whole series, instead focusing on the World Touring Car Championship.

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