Loeb won two of the three stages that were run - the 12th stage, Klevener, was cancelled due to excessive numbers of spectators - but it was still enough for the Frenchman to extend his lead to half a minute.
“It has been okay this morning,” said the eight-time title winner. “I tried to push hard and we were able to increase a bit our lead. Now the situation is a little bit more comfortable but still we have to continue to push to keep the rhythm.”
The most spectacular misfortune, by contrast, befell Ford’s Petter Solberg who crashed out while challenging for third place when he went off on the opening stage and felled a telegraph pole while he battled to regain control of his Fiesta.
On the following stage, his team-mate Jari-Matti Latvala slid into a ditch and lost around 10 seconds but maintained second place, nearly 20 seconds ahead of Citroen’s Mikko Hirvonen in third: the only person who can mathematically deprive Loeb of a ninth drivers’ crown. Latvala hit back by going fastest on stage 11.
The battle for fourth was much closer, with Citroen Junior driver Thierry Neuville getting past the Prodrive MINI of Dani Sordo on stage 11. The duo are now separated by 0.3s with Mads Ostberg 1.8s behind Sordo in his privateer Fiesta.
Ott Tanak is seventh with Evgeny Novikov in eighth, Chris Atkinson ninth and Martin Prokop 10th. Sebastien Ogier continues to head Volkswagen Motorsport team-mate Andreas Mikkelsen in a close fight in 11th overall.
Hayden Paddon commands the Super 2000 World Rally Championship category in his Skoda Fabia, while Elfyn Evans continues to lead the WRC Academy.