Sebastien Loeb leads Monte Carlo rally

MONACO -- Eight-time world champion Sebastien Loeb took the lead on the first day of the season-opening Monte Carlo rally on Wednesday after Jari-Matti Latvala rolled his car and fell out of contention.

Loeb powered his Citroen to the fastest time in three of the day's four stages, and the Frenchman leads Daniel Sordo of Spain by just over a minute.

"The grip was good and so was the balance of the car, so I attacked," Loeb said.

Petter Solberg of Norway is close behind Sordo in third.

"It was a great day. I'm delighted, that's just how I wanted to start," Solberg said. "I feel sorry for Jari."

Latvala dominated the day's second stage and led Loeb by nearly one minute after three stages, but the Finnish driver crashed his Ford after hitting an embankment early in the fourth.

Latvala and his co-driver were unharmed but had to abandon the race.

Loeb was 1 second ahead of Sordo and 22.2 clear of Latvala after the 22.9-mile first stage from Le Moulinon to Antraigues.

But Latvala won the second stage from Burzet to Saint-Martial and was 52.7 seconds faster than Loeb to take the overall lead, which he held after the third stage -- again from Le Moulinon to Antraigues -- after finishing a fraction behind Loeb.

Loeb easily dominated the day's final stage, again from Burzet to Saint-Martial in an 18.9-mile drive.

There are six short stages on Thursday. The race ends Sunday.