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WRC France: Sebastien Ogier takes lead, Sebastien Loeb crashes out

Sebastien Ogier now leads the Rally of France, while compatriot Sebastien Loeb's final event ended in disappointment after he crashed out on the first of the last day's stages.

Heavy overnight rain made the opening Vignoble de Cleebourg a tricky test, with standing water and mud on several critical corners requiring the drivers to adopt a more cautious approach.

Running fourth on the road, Loeb slid off while tackling a long right-hander during an early section of the stage and subsequently rolled his Citroen DS3 WRC into a ditch.

The nine-time champion and co-driver Daniel Elena came away unscathed, but the accident brought an end to their last planned rally and dashed any hopes for a final hometown success.

Ogier, meanwhile, put in a stunning time through the same stage and finished 14.5 seconds ahead of Volkswagen team-mate and overnight leader Jari-Matti Latvala to take control of the rally.

The newly-crowned champion then went on to post the quickest times through the streets of Bischwiller and the last of the morning's stages in Hagueanu to extend his overall lead to 13.7s.

Dani Sordo is currently Ogier's nearest rival but has been unable to mount a proper challenge as the Citroen driver has been hampered by running first and clearing any standing water for those behind.

Latvala fell to third after the first stage of the day and has been carefully treading his way through the loop.

Loeb's misfortune has promoted erstwhile rally leader Thierry Neuville up to fourth overall. The Belgian showed a good turn of speed during the morning to keep Ogier honest on stage pace.

Evegeny Novikov continues to trail Neuville by over a minute while Mads Ostberg is beginning to reel in his Russian rival as the gap to fifth is now 20.6s, this despite Ostberg suffering brake issues on the final stage of the morning.

Mikko Hirvonen is 3m24.9s off the lead in seventh, but did find his form on Hagueanu when he finished just 0.3s behind the pacesetting Ogier.

Rober Kubica is in a perfect position to reclaim the WRC 2 series lead from the absent Abdulaziz Al Kuwari as he enjoys a 3m49.2s advantage over Elfyn Evans at the moment.

Leading positions after SS17:                      
Pos  Driver              Team/Car        Time/Gap 
 1.  Sebastien Ogier     Volkswagen    2h35m58.3s
 2.  Dani Sordo          Citroen           +13.7s
 3.  Jari-Matti Latvala  Volkswagen        +17.1s
 4.  Thierry Neuville    M-Sport Ford    +1m21.2s
 5.  Evegeny Novikov     M-Sport Ford    +2m58.8s
 6.  Mads Ostberg        M-Sport Ford    +3m19.4s
 7.  Mikko Hirvonen      Citroen         +3m24.9s
 8.  Andreas Mikkelsen   Volkswagen      +4m00.4s
 9.  Robert Kubica       PH Citroen      +8m58.0s
 10. Romain Dumas        Dumas M-Sport  +10m50.0s    
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