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Duval shows promise to lead the Tour de Corse.

"The conditions have been extremely tricky and the handling of the car has not always been perfect. But we are still in a strong points-scoring place and I am sure we can make up some more positions tomorrow."

Petter Solberg, the only man left who can possibly challenge Loeb for the title - although albeit this is a long shot - struggled, and was only seventh overall. Like his team-mate, Mikko Hirvonen, who was 12th, both drivers selected the wrong tyres.

"I'm very disappointed, but that's how it is sometimes," said 'Hollywood'. "It's very difficult, I tried absolutely everything today, but we struggled. I knew that this would be a tough event, but we are far away and we have to work harder. It's a difficult situation but I wont give up, the end of this rally is a long way off and maybe there will be some rain tomorrow, which should help, we'll just have to wait and see."

Stephane Sarrazin rounded off the top eight, in his Subaru Impreza, ahead of fellow privateer entry, Alexandre Bengue and the Skoda of Armin Schwarz.

Of the remaining works drivers, Freddy Loix and Toni Gardemeister were 11th and 13th respectively, the latter having spun this morning on the opening stage, while Daniel Carlsson was 14th, and Xavier Pons 15th.

Pons leads the Production Car WRC category, 1 minute 49.2 seconds up on Niall McShea, while Alister McRae completes the provisional podium.

There were no major retirements today, and of the 53 starters, just six retired, 47 completing the opening leg.

The second leg tomorrow [Saturday] is the longest and toughest of the rally. After leaving Ajaccio at 07.40, drivers face two identical loops of two stages north of the town, split by service back in Ajaccio. The Vico - Col de Sarzoggiu test is 36.24km and the Peri - Bastelica stage is 40.94km - the longest stages of the rally.

Competitors arrive back in Ajaccio for the overnight halt at 19.05.



Related Pictures

Click on relevant pic to enlarge
Francois Duval / Stephane Prevot - Ford Focus RS WRC04
Markko Martin / Michael Park - Ford Focus RS WRC04
Sebastien Loeb / Daniel Elena - Citroen Xsara WRC
Pontus Tidemand (SWE) Emile Axelsson (SWE), Ford Fiesta R5
Pontus Tidemand (SWE) Emile Axelsson (SWE), Ford Fiesta R5, WRC2 winners
Bernardo Sousa, Hugo Magalhaes, (Ford Fiesta RRC, #43)
Bernardo Sousa, Hugo Magalhaes, (Ford Fiesta RRC, #43)
Yurii Protasov , Pavlo Cheperin (Ford Fiesta WRC)
Yurii Protasov , Pavlo Cheperin (Ford Fiesta WRC)
Yurii Protasov , Pavlo Cheperin (Ford Fiesta WRC)
Yurii Protasov , Pavlo Cheperin (Ford Fiesta WRC)
Yurii Protasov , Pavlo Cheperin (Ford Fiesta WRC)
Martin Prokop, Michal Ernst (Ford Fiesta RS WRC, #21 Jipocar Czech National Team)
Martin Prokop, Michal Ernst (Ford Fiesta RS WRC, #21 Jipocar Czech National Team)
Martin Prokop, Michal Ernst (Ford Fiesta RS WRC, #21 Jipocar Czech National Team)
Martin Prokop, Michal Ernst (Ford Fiesta RS WRC, #21 Jipocar Czech National Team)
Martin Prokop, Michal Ernst (Ford Fiesta RS WRC, #21 Jipocar Czech National Team)
Martin Prokop, Michal Ernst (Ford Fiesta RS WRC, #21 Jipocar Czech National Team)

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