Citroen's Sebastien Loeb leads Wales Rally GB at the end of the opening leg after Jari-Matti Latvala lost time in the final stage of the day with a puncture.

Loeb, who went into the mid-day service 1.4 seconds off P1, slipped down to fourth this afternoon on the repeat-run through Hafren. He then set the pace though in SS6 to haul himself back up to second, 4.5 seconds off the lead. The Frenchman was quickest again in SS7 - to take his fourth stage win of the event - and with Latvala hitting problems will now go into the overnight halt with a 1.8 second advantage.

"The rain caused some aquaplaning in SS5 and I think I dried the road for my pursuers," Loeb said. "In the next two stages I felt a lot more at ease. We had a great scrap with the other three today. There's still nothing in it as Sebastien Ogier and Petter Solberg are only four seconds behind."

Petter Solberg meanwhile heads the chasing pack and the Norwegian has been on the pace all day in his privately entered Citroen C4 WRC car, even though he has had problems with his gearbox: "I'm not happy, the gearbox isn't working properly," Solberg said this afternoon. "I go to fifth and it goes into neutral and I have to start again. Our times are unbelievable given the problems we are having."

Sebastien Ogier completes the top three and he is right in contention for the victory still, just 1.8 seconds off Petter and 3.6 seconds off P1. He was closer to the pace this afternoon too - topping the times in SS5 and going third quickest in SS6 and SS7.

"Very difficult conditions and there is a lot of water out there. But I had better grip on this [repeat] run. We've tried to go a little faster," he said. "I am happy with the car and the pace now. I have a better feeling. We'll have to see how it goes tomorrow."

Further back Mikko Hirvonen is now the lead Ford, albeit in a distant fourth - just over 40 seconds off the leader and only 6.7 seconds up on Dani Sordo in fifth, who is running under the Citroen Junior Team banner this weekend.

Latvala now finds himself down in sixth and cursing the puncture that lost him more than a minute in Myherin 2: "My windscreen was misting and the visibility was bad and getting worse, because it was also foggy. I approached a right corner over a crest and I didn't turn in early enough and hit the bank. It wasn't until I reached the next junction that I realised the impact had knocked the tyre off the rim," he explained.

"A kilometre before the finish the tyre came off completely, and pulled off a large piece of panel work. It was in that final kilometre that I lost most of the time. The only mechanical damage was to the oil cooler, but we fixed that after the stage finish," Latvala added.

Of the rest, Stobart Ford's Henning Solberg remains seventh with his team-mate, Matt Wilson now up into eighth.

Mads Ostberg lost further time this afternoon with steering problems and dropped to ninth: "I'm not happy. We were unable to fix an issue in [the mid-day] service," he explained. "We have problems turning left. The steering is weird as it turns right perfectly fine."

F1 2007 world champion Kimi Raikkonen rounds out the top ten, with SWRC leader, Andreas Mikkelsen eleventh in his Ford Fiesta S2000 and Ken Block twelfth. PWRC leader Ott Tanak is currently 18th overall.

The action now continues on Saturday with around 139 competitive kilometres on the bill - and nine separate stages. SS8, the 14.78 kilometre-run through Radnor 1, begins at 09.03 hours local time.

Wales Rally GB: Overall standings after Stage 7 (Top 10):

1. Sebastien LoebCitroen Total WRT C4 WRC1hour 15min 34.6secs M
2. Petter SolbergPSWRT Citroen C4 WRC+00mins 01.8secs A8
3. Sebastien OgierCitroen Total WRT C4 WRC+00mins 03.6secs M
4. Mikko HirvonenBP Ford Abu Dhabi Focus RS WRC +00mins 42.2secs M
5. Dani SordoCitroen Junior Team C4 WRC+00mins 48.9secs M
6. Jari-Matti LatvalaBP Ford Abu Dhabi Focus RS WRC +01mins 07.0secs M
7. Henning SolbergStobart M-Sport Ford Focus RS WRC+02mins 30.5secs M
8. Matthew WilsonStobart M-Sport Ford Focus WRC+03mins 19.3secs M
9. Mads OstbergSubaru Impreza WRC+03mins 38.3secs A8
10. Kimi Raikkonen Citroen Junior Team C4 WRC +04mins 27.1secs M


11. Andreas MikkelsenSkoda Fabia S2000+05mins 10.2secs S
12. Ken BlockMonster WRT Ford Focus WRC+05mins 28.2secs A8

SWRC Standings after Stage 7 (Top 3):

1. Andreas MikkelsenSkoda Fabia S20001hour 20min 44.8secs S
2. Jari KetomaaFord Fiesta S2000+00mins 32.8secs S
3. Eyvind BrynildsenSkoda Fabia S2000+02mins 10.0secs S

PWRC Standings after Stage 7 (Top 3):

1. Ott Tanak Mitsubishi Lancer Evo X1 hour 24mins 40.5secs P
2. Armindo AraujoMitsubishi Lancer Evo X+00mins 40.9secs P
3. Patrik Flodin Subaru Impreza STi+00mins 42.4secs P

Notable retirements:


all times unofficial



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