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Petter Solberg beats Sebastien Loeb to Fafe Rally Sprint win

Petter SolbergFormer World Rally Champion Petter Solberg took his first win in Ford colours yesterday, beating Sebastien Loeb to Fafe Rally Sprint victory by just two hundredths of a second.

The Rally Sprint, which was run over the legendary Fafe stage, was introduced as a warm-up for this week's Rally of Portugal - and as a way for the organisers to engage with fans in the north of the country.

The stage was last used as part of the WRC round in 2001, the last year the Rally of Portugal ran in the north, since its return to the calendar in 2007 it has been based in Faro on the Algarve.

While the event had no bearing on the fourth round of the world championship, 30 of the WRC's finest drivers started the four-mile stage watched by around 100,000 fans.

Fiesta RS WRC driver Solberg said: "What an unbelievable stage. There were some really big and difficult jumps, but they only made it even more exciting. We want to take our sport close to the fans, and that is exactly what we did here.

"This was a team effort and a team victory, for me and for Jari-Matti [Latvala, team-mate] and for all the guys who did such a good job again with the car. It feels great to win.

"I put on a big attack. There were a lot of people generating a lot of passion, and it was fantastic to be back here again. Fafe is truly a rallying place. I'm very happy, and I hope we can continue this way in the rally. We've taken the first step, and now Jari-Matti and I need to beat everybody else next week, too," he added.

The Rally of Portugal starts on Thursday with a stage through the streets of Lisbon. The crews then head south for three dark stages and 21 miles. The following three days run out of central service in Faro before the Sunday afternoon finish.

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