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Solberg takes New Zealand lead

Petter Solberg, Solberg Citroen, Rally New Zealand 2010Petter Solberg has returned to the front in the Rally New Zealand, as just 6.7 seconds cover the top four drivers after the first eight stages.

Midday leader Dani Sordo (Citroen) dropped to third behind Citroen Junior's Sebastien Ogier and Ford's Jari-Matti Latvala on the first stage out of service this afternoon.

Ogier hung on in front for two stages, before Latvala took a turn in the lead - but only briefly, with Solberg then regaining the top spot with a win on SS8.

The Norwegian privateer heads for the end of day superspecial 1.5s ahead of Latvala. Ogier is 5.2s off the lead in third, and only 1.5s ahead of Sordo, with all four drivers insisting they were driving flat-out rather than holding back tactically to avoid running first tomorrow.

Ford's Mikko Hirvonen is a lonely and puzzled fifth, albeit still within 20s of the lead, while Sebastien Loeb's recovery after his morning incident is well underway.

The Citroen driver won the afternoon's longest stage despite being first on the road, and is seventh and gaining on Matthew Wilson, whose Stobart Ford has been hampered by a gearbox issue. Loeb remains 1m21s off the lead, though.

Pos  Driver              Car        Time/Gap
 1.  Petter Solberg      Citroen  1h34m43.6s
 2.  Jari-Matti Latvala  Ford         + 1.5s
 3.  Sebastien Ogier     Citroen      + 5.2s
 4.  Dani Sordo          Citroen      + 6.7s
 5.  Mikko Hirvonen      Ford        + 20.4s
 6.  Matthew Wilson      Ford      + 1m06.1s
 7.  Sebastien Loeb      Citroen   + 1m21.1s
 8.  Henning Solberg     Ford      + 1m42.2s
 9.  Jari Ketomaa        Ford      + 4m12.6s
10.  Xevi Pons           Ford      + 4m35.0s
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