Day 1 am: Citroen in control

Sebastian Loeb continues to lead a Citroen 1-2 in the Monte Carlo Rally, the opening round of the World Rally Championship, after the first three stages of the event, despite both he and team-mate Francois Duval spinning at the top of the 32km Col de Brass section

Day 1 am: Citroen in control

Both Xsara drivers were caught out by the stupidity of the fans, who threw snow on to the road just at the point where the cars were braking down from a fifth gear straight. Such is the performance gap to their rivals however, the next fastest driver on the stage after Citroen pair was Toni Gardemeister, 13s back in his Ford Focus.

Marcus Gronholm has moved up to third overall having been upstaged initially by new Peugeot team-mate Markko Martin. The double-world champion went fastest in SS2, the 20km St Antonin - Toudon run, some 8.9s quicker than the Estonian who was fifth, to move up to third in the standings where he remained until the post SS3 service.

Gardemeister is proving to be reliably quick so far. The Finn is revelling in the balance of the Focus WRC on the unpredictable asphalt of the Monte, and as the event wears in so his confidence appears to be growing. He now has a 17s advantage over Martin who could only manage the ninth best time on SS3 after missing his handbrake at a hairpin and stalling.

Petter Solberg is suffering persistent brake problems with his Imprezza. The former champion felt his brake pedal go soft on the opening stage, causing him to go off the road. He was then forced to complete the last 1.5km of the run without the ability to stop. The Norweigen had to complete the entirity of SS2 with overheated brakes.

Subaru officials report that Solberg still had problems with the brakes in SS3 because the team did not have enough time to repair them properly after the SS2 service. All these problems have rendered him more than a minute behind the leader and sixth overall.

Gilles Panizzi is an encouraging seventh overall for Mitsubishi. The team changed the gearbox on the Lancer after SS2, after they discovered falling air pressure in the system, and he rewarded them by going fourth fastest on SS3. Didier Auriol is impressing greatly in the two-year-old Bozian Peugeot 206WRC, the former world champion running eighth overall ahead of Subaru's Stephane Sarrazin and Ford's Roman Kresta.

Sebastien Loeb (Citroen Xsara), 55m09.9s
Francois Duval (Citroen Xsara), 55m32.4s
Marcus Gronholm (Peugeot 307), 55m46.1s
Toni Gardemeister (Ford Focus), 55m53.7s
Markko Martin (Peugeot 307), 56m10.0s
Petter Solberg (Subaru Impreza), 56m11.6s
Gilles Panizzi (Mitsubishi Lancer), 56m28.4s
Didier Auriol (Peugeot 206), 56m29.0s
Stephane Sarrazin (Subaru Impreza), 56m32.7s
Roman Kresta (Ford Focus), 57m11.6s


Harri Rovanpera (Mitsubishi Lancer), 57m28.3s
Alexandre Bengue (Skoda Fabia), 57m29.8s
Armin Schwarz (Skoda Fabia), 59m00.8s
Antony Warmbold (Ford Focus), 59m20.6s

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Loeb kicks off Monte in style

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