Sebastien Loeb and Petter Solberg look set to again battle it out for the honours on the Wales Rally GB, following the opening loop of the event Friday.

Like in 2004 and 2003, Loeb and Solberg are now the only real contenders for the win and as has been the case more often than not this year, the former has ended the opening day in the lead in his Citroen Xsara.

All pretty much a case of d?j? vu!

Loeb heads into the overnight service with a 9.9 second advantage, having won two of the day's six tests and been second quickest in three others and sixth quickest in SS6.

He had two main issues - a spin in SS2 and a 10 second time penalty after leaving the mid-day service late. Controversially though, the Xsara arrived at the time control close to the time limit and it was the ideal time that was initially marked on the timecard - later though the stewards seemingly changed their minds.

"It must have been outside factors that led the marshals to make the change," observed Citroen boss, Guy Frequelin.

Solberg meanwhile had only one real problem, when he spun in his Subaru Impreza in SS2 - the same one that Loeb also had problems in. That incident cost the Norwegian around 12 seconds.

The opening leg Friday dawned dry and sunny, but following torrential rain on Thursday some of the earlier tests in the morning were still damp in places and in others extremely muddy, especially under the trees. By this afternoon they had dried out considerably.

Marcus Gronholm took the first stage for Peugeot to stake his claim for the victory however his hopes disappeared on SS2, when he had brakes problems dropping him right down the order to 19th. The Finn recovered later on in the day to climb back to fourth, going quickest in SS5 and SS6, but he is now over a minute off the battle for the win and realistically not in contention.

Harri Rovanpera heads the chasing pack after Loeb and Solberg, around 10 seconds further adrift of 'Hollywood'. Rovanpera has enjoyed one of his best starts' of the year and looks well placed to take the final spot on the podium. The Mitsubishi driver set a string of fastest stages time and was quickest overall on the first run through Trawscoed [SS2], although he is likely to come under a lot of pressure from Gronholm.

Furtherdown the field Francois Duval lies fifth, another that has impressed, the Belgian going well in the sister Xsara. His only problem came at the start of SS2 when he dropped 10 seconds as his launch control system failed to engage. He is around 9 seconds up on Chris Atkinson, who is making his debut on this event in the second Impreza nominated for manufacturer points. Atkinson showed real class and maintained sixth despite a puncture in the last test.

Henning Solberg is the best placed Ford driver in seventh and the top privately entered car, followed by Markko Martin for Peugeot, while Gigi Galli and Manfred Stohl complete the top ten, the former ending the day with the third quickest time in the final test. Galli's only mistake came in SS1, when he overshot a junction and stalled the engine.

Of the remaining 'works' drivers, Roman Kresta trails Manfred Stohl in his Focus in eleventh, while Colin McRae is 12th, Stephane Sarrazin 17th and Armin Schwarz, 20th.

Schwarz has had a dismal day, a combination of a spin, a broken intercom and tyre troubles costing him over two minutes. McRae has gone better in the sister Fabia on his return to the WRC, his only mistake, a stall prior to the start of SS5. He had been running as high as ninth at one point, but dropped back slightly this afternoon, unhappy with the set-up on his car.

Interestingly though McRae is only one place ahead of his prot?g?, Kris Meeke, the next best Brit in 13th, who is contesting this event in a Subaru Impreza - and who has never driven a World Rally Car competitively before. Mark Higgins is third best of the Brits, in 16th, followed by Matthew Wilson in 22nd, in the sister Stobart Ford Focus.

To date there has been no 'works' retirements, although Ford team leader, Toni Gardemeister was excluded late Friday night after his car was found to be underweight in the final service.

In the Production Car WRC Aki Teiskonen has led pretty much all day, and finishes just under 30 seconds up on Nasser Al-Attiyah, who is locked in a fierce battle for second with Marcos Ligato. Natalie Barratt lies fifth in the class, a good 3 minutes or so behind Hamed Al Wahaibi, in fourth - and one minute ahead of Fabio Frisiero in sixth.

The action now continues Saturday, with seven more special stages, including the Cardiff super-special held in the Millennium Stadium - the first time ever a WRC stage will be held indoors. In total leg 2 covers around 473 kilometres - 104 km competitive - the first beginning at 10.28 hours local time.