Sebastien Loeb has taken a commanding lead in the Rally of Turkey after the opening day of competition, with victory on all but one of the eight stages.
Despite running first on the road, the Citroen
man was virtually untouchable on the day as he established a lead of over a minute to second placed Gigi Galli, the Italian being the only other person to take a stage victory during the day and briefly leading the event in the process.
Lacking the experience of Loeb at the highest level, Galli was arguably the star if the day, with a string of top five stage times enough to ensure that he became the first Mitsubishi driver since Tommi Makkinen back in 2001 to lead a WRC event. However he faces a stiff challenge to maintain his position on Saturdays second leg with Marcus Gronholm in the Peugeot having closed to within 3.6 seconds by the end of the day.
"Tomorrow, we have some really hard-charging drivers behind and it will be a big fight," the Italian driver admitted. "But we have to be clever; I will stick to my own rhythm because I know they are much more experienced and I am not perhaps ready to fight with someone like Marcus (Grönholm). If it's dry, it will certainly be harder to keep him behind."
Gronholm was involved in day long battle with the Subaru of Petter Solberg
before building an advantage during the final round of stages although Marcus admitted at the end of the day that he had hoped to be fighting for first, not second...
Solberg was also unhappy with his overnight position of fourth, thanks largely to a wrong tyre choice which cost him time in his Impreza WRC. However he was quick to warn Gronholm that he will be chasing the Peugeot down on leg two.
"It's been very frustrating, but I'm not going to give up," Hollywood commented. "Tomorrow is a very long day, I'm expecting a good fight with Marcus and there are plenty of opportunities for us to make the right tyre choices this time!"
Returning to the WRC fold seven months after his retirement from competitive action, Carlos Sainz showed that his time out of the Citroen
Xsara had not led to a loss of speed by ending the leg in fifth place and with a comfortable gap over the leading Ford of Toni Gardemeister - the Focus nearly a minute and 20 seconds behind heading into SS10 on Saturday morning.
"I lost quite a lot of time early this morning but I'm going to push hard and try to keep climbing the order," Toni admitted. "Much of the recce was completed in thick fog and so some of my pace notes were a bit strange when it was bright and sunny. It's difficult to judge distances in the fog and sometimes my estimates, and therefore my speed, were wrong. It's been a tough day also with the changeable conditions. I prefer it when the conditions are more consistent."