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Solberg dominates, Loeb held back by team orders?


Norway's Petter Solberg continues to lead the way in this 14th and final round of the FIA World Rally Championship.

The Subaru driver – who won this rally 12 months ago – also remains in a potentially title-winning position with Citroen's Sebastien Loeb in second place.

Soberg's only drama came on the final forest stage of the day when he hit a pothole one kilometre into the second run at Resolfen, damaging the suspension.

The only other driver who arrived in Cardiff with a chance of lifting the title was Carlos Sainz and the Spaniard slid off the road on the second stage yesterday morning – setting up a straight fight between Solberg and Loeb.

Today has been a relatively straight forward day for most of the top ten, with large gaps appearing between most of the crews, they are finding themselves driving to maintain position – unwilling to risk everything in an all-out effort to make up time to the driver ahead.

The one fight which has gripped the large crowds lining the stages north of Cardiff has been between Tommi Makinen and Colin McRae. The four-times world champion Subaru driver continues to edge the Scotsman ahead of the final leg's three stages.

Both Subaru Impreza WRC2003s ran reliably through leg two.

Solberg led throughout the second leg without any problems. Last year's winner maintained that there was still some pace in reserve if Loeb – his chief rival for this year's FIA World Rally Championship drivers' crown – started to attack. Solberg's only minor trouble today was taking a tyre which was too hard for two runs through the Crychan and Halfway stages.

Makinen's biggest drama on the second leg came when he almost missed the start of the 12th stage due to being stuck in traffic. He made it with a matter of seconds to go.

Solberg said: "I'm happy with the way the day has gone, but the gap is still not big enough between me and Loeb. Anybody who knows rallying, knows that anything can happen on the stages. We should have gone for a tyre a little bit softer this morning, even on the second run at the stages it still wasn't working so well – there was a lot of mud around on the second loop. Usually during the rally and in the stages I am working with the set-up of the car – on things like the transmission – but today I am quite happy; I have just been driving, not making any changes. That was a big fright on the last stage, we were quite lucky after the shock – the car wasn't so happy on right-hand corners."

Makinen added: "The problem with almost being late for the start of the stage was not so good; okay we made it, but there was no time to get ourselves ready and prepared – we got there and had to go straight away. It's nice to have a good fight with Colin today, but the stages have been so slippery."



Related Pictures

Click on relevant pic to enlarge
Petter Solberg / Phil Mills - Subaru Impreza WRC
Sebastien Loeb / Daniel Elena - Citroen Xsara WRC
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