Two-time defending world champion Sebastien Loeb of France has captured the Rally of Italy to extend his lead in the World Rally Championship.

The Frenchman drove his Citroen Xsara to his fifth straight victory Sunday, completing the gravelly course in 3 hours, 54 minutes and 18.9 seconds. Mikko Hirvonen of Finland placed second, two minutes and 41 second back, while Spanish driver Daniel Sordo was third, three minutes and 27 seconds off the winning pace.

After seven rounds of the 16-race season, Loeb leads the drivers' championship standings with 66 points, 31 more than Marcus Gronholm of Finland. Sordo is third, another five points back with a total of 30.

The rally victory was the 25th of Loeb's career, leaving him just one short of the all-time record set by Spain's Carlos Sainz.

Some information for this report was provided by AFP and AP.