STRASBOURG, France -- Sebastien Loeb remains on course to clinch his ninth consecutive world title after winning five of seven stages at the Rally France on Friday.
The Frenchman, who will partially retire from rally driving next season, leads Mikko Hirvonen of Finland by 61 points overall. He needs to finish ahead of his Citroen teammate to clinch the world crown.
Jari-Matti Latvala of Finland gave Loeb some competition by winning the third and sixth stages -- both ahead of Loeb -- and is 13.1 second behind in second place.
Hirvonen is in third place, but he is more than 30 seconds behind Loeb and his chances of catching him appear remote.
Copyright 2012 by The Associated Press
This story is from ESPN.com's automated news wire. Wire index