Multiple World Rally champion Sebastien Loeb has ended the opening day of the Rally of Great Britain at the top of the leaderboard, and currently on course to beat Mikko Hirvonen and win the 2009 WRC drivers' title.
Loeb took the lead in the first stage this morning, when he was 1.7 seconds up on Hirvonen through Hafren 1. The Frenchman then proceeded to increase his cushion in SS2 and SS3 to head into the mid-day halt 8.9 seconds ahead.
However this afternoon on the repeat loop, Loeb saw his advantage slashed to just 4 seconds in SS4 and while he increased the margin to 6.4 seconds in SS5, he lost out again in SS6. Consequently he ended the opening day only 5.3 seconds ahead and as such Hirvonen remains a big threat.
“I thought I was much more slower in SS6 than that. I found no grip in the middle of the stage but I was determined to be first on the road tomorrow,” said Loeb.
“We are trying to fight back,” Hirvonen added. “It is getting very exciting and it was slippery towards the end of the last stage today when the rain started falling. It looks set for a good fight tomorrow.”
Petter Solberg meanwhile is third and set for the final place on the podium on what is only his second competitive outing in the Citroen C4 WRC (and his first under the Citroen Junior Team banner).
Solberg battled with Dani Sordo for P3 all day long, and following the first 130-odd kilometres, just 1.1 seconds separates the two, 'Hollywood' having edged ahead slightly in Sweet Lamb 2 and Myherin 2, when he was second and third fastest respectively.
“I'm very, very happy,” said Petter. “It has been hard but we have been getting better all day and we are really close to the two in front of us. They are fighting for the World Championship, but we are very happy to be in third.”
Sordo continued: “The rain made it difficult towards the end but I am happy with my pace. We are having a big battle with Petter but the other two have their own pace.”