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.
"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."