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Loeb on top in Australia after day one.

McRae added: "What could I do this morning? There was air in the system, which meant we lost the front brakes and then cooked the rears. You can't push hard when the car's like that. Things aren't looking brilliant now."

At Subaru Tommi Makinen's car suffered damper problems on the opening leg, while Solberg's car ran without any mechanical problems.

Solberg led the event after last night's single run at the Perth City Super stage, but the Norwegian dropped back behind Gronholm on today's opener. Solberg held second place for the morning, despite a puncture. He dropped to third place following Loeb's run in SS6, where the Impreza driver dropped 15 seconds with an overshoot and then drove the last seven kilometres with a flat left-rear tyre. Despite those problems, Solberg remained in the thick of the fight for the lead, after Gronholm went off in SS8.

Makinen's day started badly with a leaking damper and a spin on the third stage. His suspension trouble got worse when he felt the front dampers weren't working right through the second loop. The Finn concluded proceedings in fourth place.

Solberg said: "I'm happy that I've set a fastest time today, which shows we've got the pace and our position is good. This is only Friday, this is really only the warm-up for the big fight that is going to come over the next two days. The overshoot came after I misjudged the braking distance on a fast corner, we went quite a long way before we turned and came back."

Makinen continued: "When we had the damper trouble on the second loop of stages, I thought maybe there was something wrong with the transmission, the front of the car wasn't behaving at all like it should be. The spin this morning was my fault, I turned into a corner too early."

Over at Peugeot Harri Rovanpera's 206 WRC suffered brake problems on the first loop of stages, the other two official Peugeots ran without fault.

Gronholm made a fine start to today's stages, moving to the front of the field with fastest time on the first run through the Murray North stage. The reigning world champion ran into trouble on the eighth stage when he slid off the road trying to make it around a tight left-hand hairpin. Gronholm was pushed back onto the road, but dropped 17 minutes in the process. The reigning world champion retired before the last superspecial stage electing to withdraw as he was too far behind.

"It was a very slow speed corner where we went off, an uphill left-hander. The car slid into a ditch and then wouldn't come out of the other side," explained Gronholm, "We had to get more and more people, in the end there was enough and we could go. It is really disappointing and now the championship doesn't look very good."

Burns meanwhile admitted he was finding it hard to get into a rhythm in the early stages, but accepted that the recent rain had eased the pain of running first on the road. The second loop of stages dried more, however, offering more typical Australian conditions. The Englishman finished up third, around 20 seconds in front of Makinen.



Related Pictures

Click on relevant pic to enlarge
Sebastien Loeb / Daniel Elena - Citroen Xsara WRC
Petter Solberg / Phil Mills - Subaru Impreza WRC
Marcus Gronholm / Timo Rautiainen - Peugeot 206 WRC
Isolde Holderied. Toyota GT86 CS-R3. Rallye Deutschland safety/zero car [Pic credit: Toyota]
Isolde Holderied. Toyota GT86 CS-R3. Rallye Deutschland safety/zero car [Pic credit: Toyota]
Isolde Holderied [Pic credit: Toyota]
Dani Sordo (ESP) Marc Marti (ES), Hyundai I20 WRC, Hyundai Motorsport
Pontus Tidemand (SWE) Emile Axelsson (SWE), Ford Fiesta R5
Pontus Tidemand (SWE) Emile Axelsson (SWE), Ford Fiesta R5, WRC2 winners
Podium
Podium
Podium
Podium
Podium
Thierry Neuville, Nicolas Gilsoul (Hyundai i20 WRC, #7 Hyundai Motorsport)
Thierry Neuville, Nicolas Gilsoul (Hyundai i20 WRC, #7 Hyundai Motorsport)
Thierry Neuville, Nicolas Gilsoul (Hyundai i20 WRC, #7 Hyundai Motorsport)
Thierry Neuville, Nicolas Gilsoul (Hyundai i20 WRC, #7 Hyundai Motorsport)

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