Sebastien Loeb has claimed first blood in the battle for the 2009 World Rally Championship as he beat rival Mikko Hirvonen on all three of this morning's stages of the Rally of Great Britain.

Competitors reported lingering fog and slippery conditions on the 20 mile run through Hafren forest in Mid Wales with the Citroen driver 1.7 seconds quicker than Hirvonen could manage. With equally tricky conditions on stage 2, Sweet Lamb, Loeb managed to extend his advantage by a further 1.2 seconds in just 3 miles. He consolidated his lead on the final stage of the morning, Myherin setting a time 6 seconds quicker than Hirvonen, taking his overall advantage up to nearly 9 seconds.

Loeb trailed Hirvonen in the championship standings by a single point before the rally got underway and whoever claims the better result on this event will take the title.

There was an early set back for Hirvonen's fellow Finn and team-mate Jari-Matti Latvala as he emerged from the opening stage with slight front end damage and a broken drive shaft. He dropped 50 seconds to the frontrunners on the opening stage and finished the second stage with no front brakes. Cumbria's Matthew Wilson was complaining of a loss of power in his Stobart backed Focus.

Petter Solberg with Welsh co-driver Phil Mills, described the opening stages as ;very muddy'. Lying third after two stages the Norwegian driver slipped to fourth behind Dani Sordo of Spain at the end of stage 3.

Competitors repeat all three stages this afternoon before returning to Cardiff Bay from 6.20 this evening for the overnight halt.

Overall times after SS3 / Top 15:

1. Sebastien Loeb Citroen Total WRT C4 WRC 37mins 23.2secs M
2. Mikko Hirvonen BP Ford Abu Dhabi Focus RS WRC +00mins 08.9secs M
3. Dani Sordo Citroen Total WRT C4 WRC +00mins 27.7secs M
4. Petter Solberg Citroen Junior Team C4 WRC +00mins 31.1secs MT
5. Sebastien Ogier Citroen Junior Team C4 WRC +01mins 10.0secs MT
6. Henning Solberg Stobart VK Ford Focus WRC +01mins 46.3secs MT
7. Matthew Wilson Stobart VK Ford Focus WRC +01mins 52.6secs MT
8. Mads Ostberg Adapta Subaru Impreza WRC +02mins 42.3secs A8
9. Conrad Rautenbach Citroen Junior Team C4 WRC +03mins 06.8secs A8
10. Jari-Matti Latvala BP Ford Abu Dhabi Focus RS WRC +04mins 13.2secs M
11. Eyvind Brynildsen Skoda Fabia S2000 +04mins 22.5secs P
12. Aaron Burkart Citroen Junior Team C4 WRC +04mins 41.2secs A8
13. Jarkko Nikara Mitsubishi Lancer Evo X +04mins 41.5secs N4
14. Martin Prokop Mitsubishi Lancer Evo +04mins 48.0secs P
15. Nasser Al-Attiyah Mitsubishi Lancer Evo +04mins 48.9secs P

Overall PWRC after SS3 / Top 3:

1. Eyvind Brynildsen Skoda Fabia S2000 41mins 45.7secs P
2. Martin Prokop Mitsubishi Lancer Evo +00mins 25.5secs P
3. Nasser Al-Attiyah Mitsubishi Lancer Evo +00mins 26.4secs P

Notable retirements:

None.

* denotes elected/able to re-start under SupeRally format.

M - denotes Manufacturer entry.
MT - denotes Manufacturer Team entry.
P - denotes Production WRC entry.

all times unofficial

by Peter Hughes in Rally of Great Britain HQ.

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