Sebastien Loeb strengthened his grip at the top of the leaderboard following the third day of the Monte Carlo rally.

The eight-time reigning world champion dominated the opening two days, winning eight of the 10 stages, to take complete charge of the World Rally Championship's season opener and the French Citroen driver was able to extend his advantage further still.

Loeb was not as successful as previous days, finishing sixth on stage 11 and second on stages 12 and 13, but he still increased his lead over second-placed Spaniard Dani Sordo (Mini) to two minutes, 12 seconds.

"It's been a very difficult day," said Loeb, who has won this rally five times, on

"It was hard to make the right tyre choice this morning and I was not taking any risks because I really want to get to Monaco tonight so there could be no mistakes now."

Norway's Petter Solberg (Ford) won stage 11 at the start of the day to temporarily move ahead of Sordo, but he was unable to build on that in the following stages to slip back to third and he is now more than a minute behind the Spaniard.

Solberg said: "I need to keep pushing but at the same time not make any mistakes. There are four stages tomorrow so anything can still happen."

Mikko Hirvonen of Finland enjoyed an impressive day with victories on stages 12 and 13 ahead of Loeb, but he remains in fourth spot overall, three minutes 43 seconds behind the leader.

Russian driver Novikov Evgeny (M-Sport Ford) is fifth.

Ireland’s Craig Breen lies in 15th position.

Breen’s Ford Fiesta has incurred a number of punctures over the opening two days, the latest coming when he collided with a bridge on Friday evening.