Sebastien Loeb says he feels he should be able to join the battle for the lead of the Acropolis Rally after battling through to third place at the end of the opening day.

Loeb was forced to run first on the road through the opening six stages, which left the Frenchman to contend with the worst of the conditions as he swept the road for the cars behind.

Indeed, he lost nearly 20 seconds on the first stage alone to leader Jari-Matti Latvala after posting just the eighth quickest time, and had failed to finish higher than fourth on a stage going into SS6.

Starting the test some 37 seconds away from the lead, Loeb benefitted from Latvala going off the road to climb from fourth to third overall and will go into the second day just over 20 seconds behind new leader Mikko Hirvonen.

With the Ford driver now forced to contend with sweeping the way clear for the cars behind, Loeb said he was hopeful of closing the gap to challenge for the lead.

"We saw today how difficult it is to be first on the road," the Frenchman said. "If Latvala hadn't hit trouble, I would perhaps have been almost a minute down tonight.

"As it is, though, our current deficit of 20 or so seconds really isn't that big a handicap. I think we should be able to join the battle for the lead tomorrow..."

Team-mate Dani Sordo starts second for day two having slowed on the final test of the day to drop behind Hirvonen in the standings, and he admitted that it had put the Ford man in a difficult position.

"I was more than happy to finish the day three seconds adrift of Mikko," he said. "He will be in the most difficult position tomorrow. We concentrated on looking after our tyres to make sure we didn't collect any punctures. We are in a strong position this evening, but there is still a very long way to go..."


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