Loeb, in a Citroen DS3 WRC, started the penultimate day’s stages in the mountains above Monaco intent on avoiding taking any risks in order to preserve his commanding advantage. He failed to set a fastest stage time alongside his Monegasque co-driver Daniel Elena as a result but was nevertheless highly satisfied at the end of day four.
“We have one small stage tomorrow but at the moment it has been great and really fantastic to drive those stages with an atmosphere like that,” said Loeb. “It’s a real pleasure for me to be here and leading the rally right now.”
With Loeb continuing to dominate out front, the battle for the final podium places has taken centre stage today. Dani Sordo continues to hold second in his MINI John Cooper Works WRC but Petter Solberg has closed to within 19.1s of the Spaniard in his Ford Fiesta RS WRC after winning three of Saturday’s four stages.
“Everything is so nice and easy and I am really enjoying this rally,” said Solberg. “Being back in a factory team is great, I’ve been made to feel so welcome.”
Sordo added: “Petter was pushing hard but I think the gap is now too much for him. To finish second is really important because we can show Prodrive and MINI can do a really good job.”
Fourth-placed Mikko Hirvonen had put Solberg under pressure when he went fastest of all on Saturday’s first test only for a spin on stage 16 to drop him back. He’s vowed to maintain his position to the finish in Monaco tomorrow on his first event with the factory Citroen team.
Russian Evgeny Novikov completes day four in fifth overall with M-Sport Fiesta team-mate Francois Delecour overcoming powersteering issues to hold sixth. Pierre Campana is seventh for the factory MINI team with Ott Tanak eighth.
Martin Prokop will start the final day of the event in ninth overall in his Czech Ford National Team Fiesta. But with Portuguese MINI driver Armindo Araujo just 2.9s behind, the positions are fare from settled.
Matthew Wilson has demoted Volkswagen Motorsport’s Kevin Abbring for 11th after the Dutchman reported a mechanical glitch on the penultimate stage. Wilson, meanwhile, has experienced a handful of electrical niggles in his Go Fast Energy World Rally Team Fiesta during the evening’s stages.
Team-mate Henning Solberg is 13th with Craig Breen the new leader of the Super 2000 World Rally Championship section up to 14th following PG Andersson’s retirement on stage 16 with an under-bonnet fire in his PROTON.