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Solberg heads pack in New Zealand.

"It was unbelievable," reflected Martin, "When we drove these stages [SS3-5] early this morning in practice, the roads were totally damp and there was no loose gravel at all. Two hours later and the sun had dried everything and there was gravel everywhere. We had the right tyres but starting second on the road was hard work. It looked promising for us this morning when everything was damp but then it was so slippery."

Loeb also lost time, and the Frenchman ended the day fifth, with Francois Duval sixth and Carlos Sainz seventh - only one minute covers the first seven drivers.

"My car is turning a bit too easily with the set-up I used," explained Loeb. "As a consequence I'm cautious in corners not to put the back of the car in the gravel on the sides of the road. I am not using the full potential of the car. I'm sure this will be solved tomorrow morning at the first service."

Mikko Hirvonen completed the top eight, the Finn pleased with his performance as he continues to try and get to grips with the Impreza WRC.

"It's been a very encouraging day," he said. "I'm happier with what I've achieved today than my performance on the first day in Mexico. Looking at the state of my tyres after the stages, my driving is less aggressive now and is more effective. I've still got some way to go before I have a rhythm that I'm totally happy with on these stages, but I'm encouraged and looking forward to tomorrow."

Daniel Carlsson meanwhile heads the 'independent runners', he is ninth overall in his Bozian prepared Peugeot 206, while Anthony Warmbold is the next best privateer, over 3 minutes behind.

In the FIA Production Car World Rally Championship [PCWRC] class Manfred Stohl leads – he is in 11th place overall and holds a slender 13.6-second buffer over Argentinean Marcos Ligato.

There were seven further defections today, bringing the list of retirements to 11 with 47 cars remaining for the start of the second leg tomorrow. The only significant retirements thus far, are the Mitsubishi's of Gilles Panizzi and Kristian Sohlberg, both going out Thursday night with electrical problems [prior to the start of SS2].

The second leg tomorrow returns to the Northland region for eight more tests in the same area as today. After leaving Auckland at 05.30, drivers face two identical loops of four stages, covering 138.84km. The action is then preceded by a second practice pass over the roads to be used later in the day. Competitors return to Auckland at 21.00 [all times local].



Related Pictures

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Petter Solberg / Phil Mills - Subaru Impreza WRC04
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21.05.2017 - 1st place Sébastien Ogier (FRA)-Julien Ingrassia (FRA) Ford Fiesta WRC, M‐Sport World Rally Team, 2nd place Thierry Neuville (BEL)-Nicolas Gilsoul (BEL) Hyundai i20 Coupe WRC, Hyundai Motorsport and 3rd place Dani Sordo (ESP)-Marc Marti (ESP),Hyundai i2 Coupe WRC, Hyundai Motorsport
21.05.2017 - Fabio Andolfi (ITA) Manuel Fenoli (ITA) HYUNDAI i20 R5, ACI TEAM ITALIA
21.05.2017 - HIROKI ARAI (JPN) - GLENN MACNEALL (AUS) FORD FIESTA R5, TOMMI MÄKINEN RACING
21.05.2017 - HIROKI ARAI (JPN) - GLENN MACNEALL (AUS) FORD FIESTA R5, TOMMI MÄKINEN RACING
21.05.2017 - TEEMU SUNINEN (FIN) - MIKKO MARKKULA (FIN) FORD FIESTA R5, M-SPORT WORLD RALLY TEAM
21.05.2017 - Pontus Tidemand (SWE)-Jonas Andersson (SWE) Skoda Fabia R5 WRC2, Skoda Motorsport
21.05.2017 - Andreas Mikkelsen (NOR)-Anders Jaeger (NOR) SKODA FABIA R5, SKODA MOTORSPORT
21.05.2017 - Andreas Mikkelsen (NOR)-Anders Jaeger (NOR) SKODA FABIA R5, SKODA MOTORSPORT
21.05.2017 - JEAN-MICHEL RAOUX (FRA) - THOMAS ESCARTEFIGUE (FRA) CITROEN DS3 WRC
21.05.2017 - Valeriy Gorban (UKR)-Sergei Larens (EST) BMW‐Mini John Cooper Works, Eurolamp World Rally Team
21.05.2017 - Martin Prokop (CZE) - Jan Tomanek (CZE) Ford Fiesta RS WRC, ONEBET JIPOCAR WORLD RALLY TEAM
21.05.2017 - Martin Prokop (CZE) - Jan Tomanek (CZE) Ford Fiesta RS WRC, ONEBET JIPOCAR WORLD RALLY TEAM
21.05.2017 - SHEIK KHALID AL QASSIMI (ARE) - CHRIS PATTERSON (GBR) CITROEN C3 WRC, CITROËN TOTAL ABU DHABI WRT
21.05.2017 - SHEIK KHALID AL QASSIMI (ARE) - CHRIS PATTERSON (GBR) CITROEN C3 WRC, CITROËN TOTAL ABU DHABI WRT
21.05.2017 - Mads Ostberg (NOR)-Ola Floene (NOR) Ford Fiesta WRC, M‐Sport World Rally Team

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