555 Subaru World Rally Team driver Petter Solberg has ended leg one of the Telstra Rally Australia today, locked in a thrilling battle for the lead with another young star of the sport, Citroen's Sebastien Loeb.

'Hollywood' goes into leg two tomorrow, just 3.9 seconds behind and well placed to challenge for the win.

The Norwegian, who won three tests today, commented: "It's too bad what happened to Marcus [Gronholm]. Sebastien has been very impressive and quick, and it will be a very good fight for the next two days. But don't forget, this is only Friday, it's just a warm up, we're not taking big risks. But we're in a good fighting position and we'll push a bit more tomorrow."

Tommi Makinen meanwhile lies fourth overnight in the sister Subaru, just 20 seconds or so behind Richard Burns.

The Finn, who had a pretty uneventful day, noted: "On the last stage [SS9] 3kms from the start the power steering felt very stiff and we lost a little time, but overall things are okay.

"For now, we have a serious plan to catch Richard. We still have two more days to go and I'm aiming to finish on the podium."

Team boss, David Lapworth added: "Petter's got off to a very good start today, he set a consistently fast pace and is nicely poised to fight with Sebastien tomorrow. Tommi too has put in a good solid drive. He's kept in touch with the leaders and is well placed for a good podium finish. The tricky conditions we've experienced have seemed to suit our car and team today and we're feeling positive ahead of tomorrow's second Leg."

Leg two starts tomorrow from Perth City Parc Ferme. The first car will leave at 0730hrs for the first service at Jarrahdale, before travelling 50km northeast for the first stage of the day.

Competitors will contest ten stages, including a further two passes around the Perth Super Special, and a total of 124.00 competitive kilometres. The first stage is due to start at 0949hrs [all times local].

 

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