Citroen's Sebastien Loeb has taken the lead on the Wales Rally GB following the first two tests this morning, the Frenchman now leads championship rival, Petter Solberg, who is second, by 3.8 seconds.

Carlos Sainz meanwhile, the only other contender in with a chance of taking the title has crashed out, the Spaniard went off the road in SS3.

Following Solberg's win last night on the Super Special, Loeb started as he meant to go on this morning, and charged through the first proper test of the event [SS2 - Brechfa] to take the win. But hot-on-his-heels was the blue Impreza of Solberg. Setting up what looked to be a thrilling opening Leg, the Norwegian was second fastest, and at the finish only 1.3 seconds separated the pair.

Markko Martin was third fastest, despite his Focus suffering an engine problem, while Marcus Gronholm was fourth.

There were nervous moments for Citroen's Carlos Sainz when he was delayed by eleven minutes at the start of the test due to a problem with an in-board camera unit. He completed the stage, and was fifth fastest.

A mixture of fast straights and long cambered corners with a twisty section at the end, the muddy, stone-based 23km test saw no retirements and after the finish crews travelled 5.88km to the start of SS3.

Disaster hit Sainz on the second test of the day [SS3 - Trawscoed]. His earlier problems behind him, the Spaniard slid off the road in his Xsara during the first section and was unable to continue, bringing both his event and chances of clinching a third World title to an end. Despite holding 63 points in the Drivers' Championship - joined with Citroen team-mate Loeb, it would be the Frenchman that would take the title in a tie-break situation, even if he later retired.

Also falling foul of the slippery conditions was Ford's young gun Mikko Hirvonen. Skidding from the road in his Focus, the Finn's event came to an premature conclusion, while current World Champion Gronholm dropped more than 13 minutes after knocking a wheel off his 206. He later retired on the 63km road section back to service.

With bright autumn sunshine caused visibility problems for the leading drivers, Loeb was again fastest, with Solberg again tucked right behind for second and Martin third.

Contesting his last event as a full time WRC driver, Solberg's team-mate Tommi M?kinen was fourth fastest.

After the finish, crews returned to service for the second scheduled service of the day.

The action will now resume at 11.20am local time, with SS4 - Rheola 1 [32.58km].

 

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