Citroen's Sebastien Loeb
continued his good run of form in the FIA World Rally Championship, leading the Rallye Sanremo at the end of the opening leg.
The Frenchman was quickest out of the blocks this morning, blasting his Citroen
Xsara WRC into a 16-second lead at the end of an occasionally fog-bound opening loop of stages north-west of the rally's host town.
He dropped time to Ford's Markko Martin on the middle two stages, but was back at the top of the timesheets over stages five and six – a repeat of the first two this morning – to end the leg with a 32.4-second cushion over Martin.
The Ford driver's efforts were not helped by his car scooping leaves into the air intake on the first time through Perinaldo and Ceppo. The engine on his Focus started to overheat, running on safe mode for half of each test. Marcus Gronholm is third overnight, despite brake trouble on his Peugeot 206 WRC.
Tomorrow starts with the first of two runs through the 52-kilometre Teglia stage, which crews estimate will take around 36 minutes in good weather. These two stages [seven and ten] are likely to have a big impact on the rally.
Xsara WRCs of Loeb and Colin McRae ran without fault today though, while Carlos Sainz was not happy with the brakes on his car.
Loeb was fastest on four of the day's six stages and enjoyed a trouble-free opening leg aboard his Xsara. Sainz held fourth place overnight. The Spaniard reported a lack of feeling on the brakes aboard his Xsara, otherwise his car ran without any serious mechanical trouble. McRae rounded out the trio of official Citroens in seventh. The Scotsman had taken a compound of Michelin too soft for the final loop of stages, feeling the tyres were moving around towards the end of the longer of the two stages.
"There's no way that we can be lifting off anywhere, Martin is going very well – he's not far behind," said Loeb. "We have had to take some chances today, on the second stage we hit a wall with the right-rear of the car when we were braked too late for a corner."
Sainz added: "I am still taking medication, but I feel okay today. The car is also okay, but the brakes aren't quite right. I don't seem to be getting the right feeling from the pedal. The team is going to change the discs and master cylinder at the last service tonight, so hopefully this should solve the problem. I have to say I am happy to be here after the way I felt earlier in the week."