Citroën’s Sebastién Loeb set a blistering pace on the first two stages of the San Remo Rally and was leading defending champion Marcus Gronholm by 16 seconds on Friday.

Citroën’s Sebastién Loeb set a blistering pace on the first two stages of the San Remo Rally and was leading defending champion Marcus Gronholm by 16 seconds on Friday.


Loeb’s World Rally championship hopes depend on strong performances over the three asphalt rounds in October and he’s started out with a fastest time in the Xsara over the opening 12,4-km Perinaldo 1 stage.


Loeb stretched his overall lead by a further 14,7 seconds after blitzing stage two. Peugeot’s Marcus Gronholm was the only driver anywhere near him after two stages, albeit 16 seconds behind the Frenchman.


Nobody else got within 20 seconds of Loeb. Best of the rest were the Ford Focus RS 03s of Francois Duval 20,1sec behind Loeb and Markko Martin 20,5sec.


Of the other title contenders Carlos Sainz is going best. His Citroën was 24,6sec adrift and the Spaniard holds fourth place overall – behind Loeb, Gronholm and Duval.


Toni Gardemeister was the first retirement after he lost his brakes and crashed his Skoda in fog, 21km into the second stage.