Citroen's Sebastien Loeb
concluded day 1 of the Rallye de France-Tour de Corse on top after setting the standard in the afternoon.
Loeb lost out in the morning and after SS1 was cancelled due to spectator problems, Marcus Gronholm set the pace in both SS2 and SS3.
Seb was 3.1 seconds slower than the Finn in Belvedere 1 and although he was only 0.1 seconds off the Ford man in Arbellara 1, Gronholm did enough to return to the mid-day service area with the lead, albeit a slender one - just 2.9 seconds ahead of Daniel Sordo, while Loeb was in P3.
The Frenchman however turned the tables on the repeat runs and moved up to P2 in SS4, when he was 1.1 seconds up on Gronholm and 4.5 seconds quicker than his team-mate. Seb then went in front on SS5, with his second stage win in succession, before completing a hat-trick in SS6. The Citroen
man will now take a 4.8 second lead into the second day.
"We changed a few of the settings in the mid-day service. I found some confidence again," he explained. "I can attack a bit harder now. There was nothing strategic though. I just went as quickly as I could: I had no choice. I think it's going to be another really good fight this weekend."
Gronholm, like Loeb, opted for the harder tyre in the afternoon, but despite managing to stay ahead of Sordo was unable to do match Seb and had to settle for the second best times in SS4, SS5 and SS6.
"I used the hardest tyres that we had at our disposal, but I did not have a fantastic feeling with them," he reflected. "Loeb is on the attack now and I am sure that he will continue in this way. I went as quickly as I could. There was nothing else for me to do."
Sordo meanwhile finished the leg 18.5 seconds off Loeb and 13.7 seconds off Gronholm. He blamed his tyre choice for his failure to match the 'big two' in the afternoon and conceded that he just wasn't driving as well.
"I had tyres that were too soft for this loop of stages. I couldn't go any quicker," he confirmed.
Francois Duval is next up in fourth - however, the Belgian has been unable to repeat his Rallye Deutschland heroics. He is already nearly a minute adrift of the battle for the win and 40 seconds off the final place on the podium. The OMV Kronos Citroen
man reckoned the car was moving around too much in the morning and while things weren't perfect in the afternoon he did seem slightly more positive.