The 555 Subaru World Rally Team enjoyed an excellent day today [Friday] on the opening leg of the Wales Rally GB, both Pirelli-shod Subaru Impreza WRC2003s proving 100 per cent reliable, Petter Solberg ending the day in overnight first, while Tommi Makinen is third.

Having been locked in a thrilling duel with Sebastien Loeb for the lead, Solberg clinched four stage wins, and will start tomorrow well-placed in the battle for both the rally victory and the 2003 World Rally Championship Drivers' title.

"It's been a good day, a very good day," said 'Hollywood'. "I've been taking things steady, and the conditions have been difficult. I've had a good fight with Sebastien and I think it's going to stay that way for the rest of the rally.

"You can never afford to be too happy on the first day, there are two more to come and it's a long way to go. But, for me, it couldn't really have ended better today."

His team-mate Tommi Makinen meanwhile set consistently good times and on his last outing with the Subaru team is determined to finish on a high.

"It's been good, an enjoyable day," noted Makinen, "We've experimented a little with tyres, but we have a set up that is good. I had to avoid some big rocks pulled out by the leading cars on the final stages, but it wasn't so bad. The plan for tomorrow is to keep Colin [McRae] behind and to go flat out. I'm enjoying my driving today and I'm hoping to do more of the same tomorrow."

Subaru boss David Lapworth added: "We predicted some drama for today and our strategy was not to be a part of it. Petter has done a fantastic job. He's kept ahead of Sebastien and things seem to be going exactly according to plan.

"Tommi too has enjoyed a great run and its good to see him on the Leg one podium. Both drivers are anticipating a tough, but enjoyable fight tomorrow and are looking forward to it. The lesson from today is that the rally is living up to its reputation for drama and we'll be bearing that in mind tomorrow."

Fiore Brivio, Pirelli Tyres Rally manager, concluded: "We've been very pleased with the performance with the Pirelli PZero gravel rally tyres today. This performance has been endorsed by both Petter and Tommi holding podium positions at the end of Leg 1. Both drivers selected the Pirelli PZero KM6 gravel rally tyre, which were well suited to today's changeable conditions, which found forest track altering between both damp and dry conditions. Tomorrow's weather is forecast to be the same as today, and we hope for a continued excellent performance."

Leg two of the final round of the 2003 FIA World Rally Championship begins tomorrow [Saturday] at 0500hrs when the first car will leave the Cardiff parc ferme and travel 70.61 km to Felindre, for the first scheduled service. Crews will contest a further seven stages [two repeated], to the northeast of Welsh capital and 138.71 competitive kilometres. The Leg will conclude with a final blast round the 2.45km Cardiff Super Special.