Citroen privateer Petter Solberg increased his lead on the Acropolis Rally this afternoon and following a dramatic final stage he will now start day two with a massive 51.6 second advantage.

Solberg began the seventh round in the 2011 World Rally Championship in style by winning the first two tests in his Citroen DS3 WRC car to head into the mid-day RSZ (remote service zone) with a 20.3 second lead over Jari-Matti Latvala. The Norwegian then pushed on this afternoon, winning SS3 and SS4, and setting the second best times in SS5 and SS6. He thus concludes the opening leg in a highly promising position and it might have been even better had he not lost time behind the limping Latvala in Mavrolimni.

"I had to drive a long time behind Latvala [in SS6]," Solberg confirmed. "That was very bad. But it is okay - we have a good lead for tomorrow.

"Overall I'm very happy with the day. I had a good starting position and planned to make the most of it! It will be another tough day tomorrow, the stages are very rough, and I will have to be cautious to keep my lead."

Sebastien Loeb meanwhile heads the chasing pack and is second, having been 'gifted' the place after both Mikko Hirvonen and Sebastien Ogier opted to slow in the final test of the day in order to have a better road position for tomorrow. Loeb, who had to play the sweeper all day and who picked up a puncture in SS5, now lies 3.7s up on Hirvonen, with Ogier a further 1.9 seconds back.

"It was difficult being first, but despite our two punctures I reckon we've come out of it well," Loeb said. "Petter Solberg is the only one to have taken full advantage of his position. It's going to be difficult to knock him off the top of the time sheets. Where I'm concerned it's looking more complicated as Mikko Hirvonen and S?bastien Ogier are only a few seconds behind. But there's no question of lifting off, there are several challenges to take up tomorrow and Sunday!"

"We've managed to avoid all today's pitfalls and we've got a good position for tomorrow," Ogier added, "but the toughest part is still to come! We'll have to push very hard to pass Mikko and Seb. As for Petter I think it'll be very difficult to catch him in normal circumstances."

Further back, Henning Solberg rounds out the top five on his return, albeit more than 45 seconds off P4.

"Everything is working well - we've not really had any problems today and it has been a good day overall," said Henning. "There were no major changes made to the car at the remote service, we were quite happy with the feeling but we knew that the afternoon would be much harder.

"We had a couple of big mistakes on that last stage but no other problems. Tonight I just want to have a good sleep and I need to physically push tomorrow so hopefully we can continue with some good times."

Britain's Matthew Wilson holds sixth, another 45 odd seconds back in the only other M-Sport Stobart Ford car to get to the end of the opening leg.

"Today has been hard - there's no question about that," said Wilson. "We had some small problems with the gearbox this morning and it's been really slippery this afternoon. Stage 3 was very rough with a lot of rocks on the inside of the roads so we wanted to try to get the car safely through the stage.

"On a rally like this, if you push hard all the time then you can easily be caught out so it's all about knowing when to push and when to take things more carefully. It's been a long and very hot day with a lot of driving so I'm looking to get a good rest tonight in order to be on top form ready for tomorrow."

Of the rest SWRC class leader Ott Tanak is seventh - almost 30 seconds up on his closest class rival, Juho Hanninen in P9, leaving the unfortunate Latvala sandwiched between them. Latvala had been second until the final stage of the day when differential issues cost him over 3 minutes.

"When I turned onto the gravel road about 500 metres before the start [of SS6] I realised there was a problem in the transmission. I checked the differentials before the start but didn't have time to do anything more," Latvala explained.

"For most of the stage I had rear-wheel drive only, but in the high-speed sections there was drive to the front in places. There was no warning and I'm so disappointed. The forces were against me today and I feel unlucky at the moment. This is a tough event and two years ago I had a problem and fell down the order. But I recovered to finish on the podium, so tomorrow I will push again."

F1 2007 world champion Kimi Raikkonen completes the top ten, slipping back two places in SS6 with a rear left puncture. The Finn posted only three top-ten times today - his best an eighth quickest time in SS5 - and is seemingly a bit 'rusty', no surprise really considering his last WRC event was the Jordan Rally back in mid-April.

In terms of retirements, M-Sport Stobart Ford man Evgeny Novikov was the first major scalp. He had been third in SS1, but broke his suspension in SS2.

"It's not been such a lucky day for me - the first stage was very good, the car was going well and then 10 km towards the end of Stage 2 the car stopped. I don't know why - all we know is that there was something in the suspension that had broken," Novikov stated. "Now I will just go home, relax and try to get a good sleep. Tomorrow is a long day but I really want to push to the maximum and get as much experience in the car as possible."

Peter van Merksteijn Jr was the next WRC driver to join him on the sidelines, rolling his Citroen DS3 WRC car this afternoon in SS3. The stage was subsequently stopped and Merksteijn Jr and his co-driver, Eddy Chevailler were taken to hospital for checks. Chevailler was later diagnosed with a broken lumbar vertebra.

Mads Ostberg and Federico Villagra also went out in the second loop, the former going off the road in SS4 while in P6 overall, while the latter had to call it a day in the final test due to front end damage.

"For sure, it's not been the best start and it's always disappointing to retire," Ostberg stated. "Greece is a rally I enjoy but Jonas [Andersson] had all his pacenotes stolen from 2008 and 2009's rally on the way here so we had to make completely new notes on the recce which was an added pressure.

"On Stage 4, we felt the power steering go and then we went slightly off the road which damaged the front-left. It's not been the best day but I must try to concentrate on tomorrow which will be another long day. There's still a lot that can happen but I think I will just try to get as much experience on these roads as I can."

The action now continues on Saturday with almost 142 competitive kilometres on the bill - and seven separate stages.

SS7, the 17.41 km-run through Klenia Mycenae 1, begins at 11.02 hours local time [09.02 hours UK time].

Acropolis Rally: Overall standings after Stage 6 (Top 10):

1. Petter Solberg PSWRT Citroen DS3 WRC 1hour 39mins 24.2secs M
2. Sebastien Loeb Citroen Total WRT DS3 WRC +00mins 51.6secs M
3. Mikko Hirvonen Ford Abu Dhabi WRT Fiesta RS WRC +00mins 55.3secs M
4. Sebastien Ogier Citroen Total WRT DS3 WRC +00mins 57.2secs M
5. Henning Solberg M-Sport Stobart Ford Fiesta RS WRC +01mins 43.2secs
6. Matthew Wilson M-Sport Stobart Ford Fiesta RS WRC +02mins 27.7secs M
7. Ott Tanak Ford Fiesta S2000 +03mins 32.4secs S
8. Jari-Matti Latvala Ford Abu Dhabi WRT Fiesta RS WRC +03mins 55.0secs M
9. Juho Hanninen Red Bull Skoda Fabia S2000 +04mins 01.6secs S
10. Kimi Raikkonen ICE1 Racing Citroen DS3 WRC +04mins 04.7secs M

Others:

11. Bernardo Sousa Ford Fiesta S2000 +05mins 06.2secs S
12. Dennis Kuipers FERM Powertools Ford Fiesta RS +05mins 49.2secs M

SWRC standings after Stage 6 (Top 3):

1. Ott Tanak Ford Fiesta S2000 1hour 42mins 56.6secs S
2. Juho Hanninen Red Bull Skoda Fabia S2000 +00mins 29.2secs S
3. Bernardo Sousa Ford Fiesta S2000 +01mins 33.8secs S

Notable retirements:

SS2. Evgeny Novikov M-Sport Stobart Ford Fiesta RS WRC Suspension
SS3. Peter van Merksteijn Jr Van Merksteijn Citroen DS3 WRC Off road. M
SS4. Mads Ostberg M-Sport Stobart Ford Fiesta RS WRC Off road. M
SS5. Daniel Oliveira Brazil WRT Mini John Cooper Works Stopped in stage M
SS6. Federico Villagra Munchis Ford WRT Fiesta RS WRC Front car damage M

all times unofficial