Sebastian Loeb stretched his lead over the chasing pack after winning two of today's three stages at the Monte Carlo Rally.

The Frenchman had begun the new World Rally Championship campaign in typically dominant fashion yesterday, taking victories on three of the opening day's four stages to secure a commanding early lead.

And Loeb took his Citroen even further clear of nearest challenger and compatriot Sebastian Ogier today, opening up a one minute 35 second gap over the Volkswagen driver.

Finland's Juho Hanninen won today's other stage in his Ford.

The drivers continued to face difficult conditions with snow and ice prevalent, but Loeb was more than satisfied with his performance.

"We kept the lead that we had this morning and that was the main goal for the day," he said on

"The penultimate stage in St Bonnet was full of snow and offered really nice conditions. But the last test was a bit rough, with a lot of cuts and just one line through the ice."

Ogier remained calm about his chances of toppling reigning nine-time champion Loeb, saying: "There are still two days to go but we're happy with the car.

"We've had no problems at all so we'll cross our fingers and try to preserve second."

Ogier holds a lead of one minute three seconds over third-placed Dani Sordo (Citroen) while Evgeny Novikov (Ford) lies fourth in the standings at the midway stage of the rally, a further 15 seconds adrift.

Mikko Hirvonen had started the day third in his Citroen but had slipped down to fifth by the end of stage 10 after struggling for pace.