Ireland - leg 1: Loeb and Citroen sitting pretty?

Citroen's Sebastien Loeb concluded the opening leg of the inaugural Rally Ireland on Friday poised to take the victory - and seize the advantage in the battle for the 2007 drivers' title.

Loeb's bid to take his fourth world crown received a boost on the first loop this morning, when his chief championship rival, Marcus Gronholm crashed out heavily towards the end of SS4.

Although Gronholm was taken to hospital, along with his co-driver, Timo Rautiainen for precautionary checks, both were subsequently given the all-clear and released.

Seb meanwhile, having lost out to Marcus last night in the short Stormont Super Special, immediately took over at the top this morning on the first 'proper' test, the 11.48 kilometre-dash through Geevagh 1.

He was unable to hold off his team-mate, Daniel Sordo however in SS3 and dropped behind the Spaniard in SS4, when he was again 'only' second quickest.

Loeb was hampered early on though by a rear left suspension problem and once this was fixed he bounced back in the middle loop, retaking the lead in second run through Geevagh.

Following that the Frenchman extended his margin further in SS6 and although he lost out to Sordo in SS7, he returned to the second service of the day with a 6.8 second cushion.

The final loop was again all about Loeb and Sordo, and while Sordo cut the gap to just 3 seconds following SS9, Seb finished the day with a flourish and took the margin back to just over 10 seconds.

All-in-all it was a top day for Citroen, as Loeb and Sordo won every single test for the French manufacturer - taking five wins apiece.

Related Pictures

Click on relevant pic to enlarge
Sebastien Loeb (FRA) / Daniel Elena (MC), Citroen Total WRT C4 WRC. Rally Ireland. 15-18th November 2007.
Daniel Sordo (ESP) / Marc Marti (ESP), Citroen Total WRT C4 WRC. Rally Ireland. 15-18th November 2007.
Marcus Gronholm (FIN) / Timo Rautiainen (FIN), BP Ford Focus RS WRC 06. Rally Ireland. 15-18th November 2007.
Sebastien Ogier collects his WRC champion`s trophy at the FIA Prizegiving in Doha
Sebastien Ogier and VW celebrate at the FIA Prizegiving
Robert Kubica at the Monza Rally Show
Ford Olsbergs MSE celebrates winning the RX Teams` Championship
Liam Doran
Teams line up for FIA World Rallycross
Teams line up for FIA World Rallycross
Nasser Al-Attiyah - Mini ALL4 Racing
Jari Ketomaa (FIN) Kaj Lindstrom (FIN), Ford Fiesta R5, WRC2 winners

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