Sardinia - leg 1: Seb top, normal service resumed.

Citroen's Sebastien Loeb finished in his usual position at the top of the pack - following the opening leg of the Rally d'Italia Sardegna on Friday however, early on things looked a lot different.

On the first loop this morning, Seb struggled somewhat, as he was running first on the road. Consequently he had to sweep away all the loose gravel for his rivals and lost time. In the first test, the 31.13 kilometre run through Crastazza, he conceded 12.4 seconds to Jari-Matti Latvala, who surprised many by setting the early pace for Stobart Ford.

Although the Frenchman bounced back in SS2 and was quickest, he lost more ground in SS3 and returned to the mid-day service halt 10.4 seconds off the lead.

In the afternoon, Marcus Gronholm quickly took the lead from Latvala with the quickest time in SS4, and while he was second quickest in SS5, shock absorber problems in the final test cost him around 25 seconds and handed Seb the lead.

Loeb had started to claw back some time in the afternoon and two stage wins and a second was good enough, combined with Gronholm's woes, to power the Citroen man into the top position. He will now take a 22.4 second cushion into the second day.

Gronholm meanwhile was disappointed to have lost the lead and conceded that it won't be easy to get it back. He was happy though to have got back to the service and to have minimised the damaged.

Mikko Hirvonen is next up in the sister BP Ford Focus RS WRC. The Finn ended the opening loop in seventh but knew his position was a result of the conditions. He climbed back up the order in the afternoon and thanks to two top three times ended the day on course for the final place on the podium, 6.7 seconds off his team-mate.

Henning Solberg trails Mikko in his Stobart Focus having slipped behind the Finn this afternoon - with just 3.8 seconds between them though it is anything but decided. Henning was buzzing with confidence and he even managed to top the times in SS3.

Further-down the order, Daniel Sordo is fifth in the #2 Citroen C2, although the Spaniard is someway off the battle for third, 45 seconds adrift. The youngster had no real issues but managed to benefit from other people's issues thanks to a steady drive.

Related Pictures

Click on relevant pic to enlarge
Sebastien Loeb (FRA) / Daniel Elena (MC), Citroen Total WRT C4 WRC. Rally d`Italia Sardegna, 17-20th May 2007.
Marcus Gronholm (FIN) / Timo Rautiainen (FIN), BP Ford Focus RS WRC 06. Rally d`Italia Sardegna, 17-20th May 2007.
Mikko Hirvonen (FIN) / Jarmo Lehtinen (FIN), BP Ford Focus RS WRC 06. Rally d`Italia Sardegna, 17-20th May 2007.
Alexey Lukyanuk - Ford Fiesta R5
Alexey Lukyanuk - Ford Fiesta R5
Pierre Louis Loubet (FRA) - Vincent Landais (FRA) Citroen DS3 R5
Pierre Louis Loubet (FRA) - Vincent Landais (FRA) Citroen DS3 R5
Karl Kruuda (EST) - Martin Jarveoja (EST) Ford Fiesta R5, Drive Dmack Trophy Team
Scott Pedder (AUS) Dale Moscatt (AUS), Skoda Fabia R5
Scott Pedder (AUS) Dale Moscatt (AUS), Skoda Fabia R5
Scott Pedder (AUS) Dale Moscatt (AUS), Skoda Fabia R5
Essapeka Lappi (FIN) Janne Ferm (FIN), Skoda Fabia R5 WRC2, Skoda Motorsport
Quentin Gilbert  (FRA) - Renaud Jamoul (BEL) Citroen DS3 R5
Lorenzo Bertelli (ITA)-Simone Scattolin (ITA) Ford Fiesta RS WRC, FWRT
Lorenzo Bertelli (ITA)-Simone Scattolin (ITA) Ford Fiesta RS WRC, FWRT
Teemu Suninen (FIN) - Mikko Markkula (FIN) Skoda Fabia R5, Team Oreca
Nicolás Fuchs (PER) - Fernando Mussano (ARG) Skoda Fabia R5

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