4 March 2006
Solberg top in Mexico.
Subaru number one driver, Petter Solberg leads the Corona Rally Mexico following leg 1 on Friday - the third round in the 2006 FIA World Rally Championship.
The Norwegian began the day by winning the opening three tests, benefiting from running ninth of the road, while Marcus Gronholm and Sebastien Loeb ran first and second, due to their position in the drivers' championship, sweeping away much of the loose gravel. Solberg thus went into the mid-day service having built a 10.4 second lead over Mikko Hirvonen.
Solberg though slipped back in the afternoon, and while he was quickest in SS4, he was third in SS5 and fourth in SS6, the final 'proper' test of the day, after a 'little off', which saw him complete the test with the back bumper hanging off the rear of the Impreza. As such his advantage was more than halved and following the Superspecial he leads by 4.8 seconds. Despite all that though, Solberg was happy with his form, especially as he is not feeling 100 per cent.
Hirvonen meanwhile is second, the Finn having been 'Mr Consistent' all day in his Ford Focus, second quickest through every single test, bar SS7, when he was sixth. Despite an oil leak in the front right shock absorber, Hirvonen, like Solberg, gained from his start position and is now well placed to challenge for the win.
Sebastien Loeb lies third, just under 10 seconds off the lead in his Kronos Racing ran Xsara, after setting two quickest times in SS5 and SS6. The Frenchman was less penalised by his road position on the second run through SS1-3.
Further-down the field Manfred Stohl is fourth for the OMV Peugeot Norway WRT. The Austrian though was disappointed as he suffered grip problems in the first four stages and then spun in SS5.
Junior champion, Daniel Sordo is fifth, on his third event with the Xsara WRC and his first on gravel, while Matthew Wilson lies sixth on his debut in Mexico. The Brit was impressive all day, putting in top ten stages times in every test, including a fourth quickest time on SS7.
Gareth MacHale and Henning Solberg round out the top eight, equal seventh, the latter though was dogged by brake problems this morning. He was then forced to stop in SS5 to change a wheel, losing three minutes.
In the Production Car WRC category, Toshi Arai is 'king', as well as being ninth overall. Arai leads the PCWRC category by well over a 1 minute, with Marcos Ligato second and Nasser Al-Attiyah third.
A number of drivers encountered difficulties during the opening leg, most noticeably four 'works' drivers.
Xavier Pons was the first to go, when he had engine problems in his Kronos Xsara, something that forced him to stop in SS2.
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