Sebastien Loeb said he felt his advantage over rival Mikko Hirvonen had been 'bigger than expected' after ending day one of Rally Cyprus with an advantage of a minute over the Ford driver.

Eager to build a big lead on Friday's tarmac stages, Loeb was in imperious form and went quickest on each of the morning stages to open up a healthy lead over team-mate Dani Sordo and an advantage of over 40 seconds over Hirvonen.

Two more quickest times followed during the afternoon's repeat run through the morning stages to leave Loeb 40 seconds clear of Sordo and a minute clear of Hirvonen; a figure the Citroen man admitted had been a surprise.

"Running first on the road meant that I was able to profit from nice clean lines," he said of the morning stages. "I spent the morning trying to make the most of that in order to build up as big a lead as possible before we move on to the loose. OK, we're not going as quickly as we normally would on asphalt, but I have to say that my C4 WRC is quite enjoyable to drive. The important thing was to strike the ideal balance and not slide about too much, but it was fun.

"I took things fairly cautiously on SS6 because my tyres were fairly worn by then. The gap with Mikko is bigger than I had been expecting, but he's not going to just sit back and let me just cruise home to Sunday's finish! That said, a great deal will depend on the weather: if it continues to rain, being first on the road on Saturday could turn out not to be a disadvantage..."



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