Author`s name Pravda.Ru

Loeb defends lead at season-opening Monte Carlo Rally

Daniel Sordo cut into teammate Sebastien Loeb's lead in Friday's early stages of the season-opening Monte Carlo Rally.

Three-time world rally champion had started day two with a 23.9-second lead over Sordo, with both driving Citroen C4s.

However, Sordo took stages three and five on Friday morning and was narrowly runner-up to Loeb on stage four. He cut his teammate's overall lead to 6.6 seconds, ahead of the three afternoon stages.

Two-time world champion Marcus Gronholm, driving a Ford Focus, was 36.2 seconds behind Loeb overall.

Loeb, a 32-year-old Frenchman, won last year's title despite missing the final four races after breaking his arm in a cycling accident. Last year, Gronholm finished runner-up to Loeb, who considers the Finn his main rival again.

Friday's six specials cover 150.96 kilometers (93.8 miles) of the race's 328.86-kilometer (204.4 mile) total distance, reports AP.

Most of the rally has been moved three hours away to Valence, after road closures along the usual course made access too difficult for competitors.

Loeb is looking to equal the record set by Finland's Tommi Makinen, who won four straight overall titles from 1996-1999.