Subaru team leader, Petter Solberg laid down the gauntlet on day one of the Corona Rally Mexico today [Friday], the Norwegian storming through the days six stages and establishing a comfortable 20.5 second lead in the new Impreza.

'Hollywood' who won last time out in Sweden, picked up the pace this afternoon winning 2 out of the 3 tests to add to his win on SS1.

The Norwegian had no issues with the latest 2005 specification Impreza, something that not only bodes well for the rest of the event, but also the rest of the season, as he tries to wrestle back the drivers' title, won by Sebastien Loeb last year.

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"It's been a very good day with only some small brake problems," said Solberg. "The car is perfect and tomorrow I will try and control the pace from the front."

Of the rest, Marcus Gronholm heads 'the pursuers', having been quickest in SS2 and SS6, the Finn though will need to keep pushing if he is to claw back the deficit and put Peugeot on top. Furthermore while a win would be a big boost for the team and new boss, Jean-Pierre Nicolas, Gronholm will be wary, as he won't want to repeat his Swedish 'misadventures'.

"I haven't been comfortable in the car all day, often having to pump the brakes," he said. "I don't really know why, but it's a little the same as last year. Tomorrow I am going to try and stay second; I don't want to have another accident like I did in Sweden. It's going to be very hard for anyone to catch Petter."

Markko Martin is third, the Estonian displacing Francois Duval in the final test of the day, to give Peugeot and the new 307, both spots on the provisional podium. Like Gronholm though and many of the other leading WRC crews, he suffered some brakes problems.

Duval meanwhile is fourth, and currently the lead Citroen, after Sebastien Loeb lost time after damaging a right rear damper in SS1. The Frenchman drove the next two stages with the wheel twisted on the axle and lost over 4 minutes as a result. He consequently dropped right down the field, from second at the end of SS1, to outside the top 15 after SS2. He recovered to 14th tonight.

"I broke the shock absorber at the end of the first stage, but I didn't notice until I stopped to check the tyre pressures," explained Loeb. "The wheel wasn't straight and I had no option but to drive through stages 2 and 3 like this until reaching service."

Chris Atkinson was again the star of the event though, and the Aussie is fast becoming a real sensation, fifth at the end of the day in only his second event with the crack Prodrive squad is a real testimony to his skill.

Roman Kresta heads the four Ford Focus', ahead of team-mate, Daniel Sola, eighth, Anthony Warmbold, ninth and Toni Gardemeister, tenth. The fact the Czech has not been nominated for manufacturers' points, will no doubt be a sore point with team boss, Malcolm Wilson tonight, who instead preferred Sola, on account of his experience in Mexico.

Gardemeister has suffered though, not only with an off in SS2, but also because he has been running first on the road - sweeping away some of the loose gravel - and has the flu, and is consequently not at 100 per cent.

"I think I have been pushing too hard and over-driving the car," he noted. "My 'flu isn't as bad as yesterday but I have a bad cough and feel very tired."

Mitsubishi's Harri Rovanpera is seventh, he had an uneventful day, trying to get to grips with their new active differential system, which so far has failed to give them any noticeable boost. Gilles Panizzi, is eleventh in the sister Lancer WRC05, having lost time with a series of punctures.

Skoda had a dire day, the new Fabia seemingly just as slow as the old one, Armin Schwarz twelfth, while Jani Paasonen went off the road and tried to remodel his car on the second test - opps!

"There was a fast right into a left hand corner," he explained. "I took the right too fast and couldn't make the left-hand corner so we went straight off and couldn't get back to the road. It was my fault - there was nothing wrong with the car at all."

In the Junior WRC, Guy Wilks has led from the start, and ends the day 43.4 seconds up on his team-mate, Per Gunnar Andersson, and all this despite a number of scares. With only 5 JWRC competitors nominating this event though it's not exactly a battle royal...

Luca Cecchettini for the record is best of the rest in the JWRC, in third, over 14 minutes behind in his Fiat Punto.

"The surface is really weird, you never know whether the car is going to oversteer or understeer... and it does both violently!" said the Brit.

Ricardo Trivino has the honour of leading the Mexican crews and the local driver, who has previously contested the FIA Production Car WRC, holds 17th position in this Peugeot 206WRC.

"I've had a fantastic welcome from the fans," said Ricardo. "It's been a great day and tomorrow I will attack."

The second leg tomorrow [Saturday] covers another six stages, comprising two loops of three stages in the mountains north and east of Leon. In total, 146 competitive kilometres lie in wait, exactly the same distance as on leg one, over a total distance of 218.54 kilometres. While stages to not reach altitudes as high as those on leg one, the average height of the leg two stages is still 2284 metres.