Day 1: Loeb brushes off Martin's challenge

Sebastien Loeb dominated the first day of the Sanremo Rally despite the best efforts of Markko Martin. The Ford star put on a charge in the afternoon to move up to second overall, but any thoughts of challenging for the lead were quickly dismissed when Loeb set a stunning time on the final stage of the day to increase his lead to over 30 seconds

Day 1: Loeb brushes off Martin's challenge

Martin was in fourth position after the first three stages this morning, but had signaled his potential with the fastest time on SS3. He repeated the feat on SS4, with a time fast enough to move him ahead of Marcus Gronholm and team-mate Francois Duval into second overall, although he only took 1.2s out of Loeb's lead.

Citroen star Loeb quickly responded to Martin's challenge, going fastest on SS5 - although his time was just 0.5s faster than the Ford. But Loeb stamped his authority on the rally on the final stage of the day, going 10.4s quicker than Martin to increase his overnight lead to 32.4s.

Despite dropping down from second, reigning champion Marcus Gronholm has continued his solid run. The Finn was third fastest behind the two leaders on both of the day's final stages, and has built a comfortable margin over those behind him.

Carlos Sainz was another to move up the leaderboard throughout the afternoon. While never challenging for ultimate speed, the Spaniard was supremely consistent, allowing him to climb to fourth ahead of Francois Duval and Gilles Panizzi, both of whom had comparatively slow runs through SS6.

Colin McRae remains in seventh in the third Citroen, 12.3s down on Panizzi and finishing the day just over 20s ahead of Petter Solberg. However, misfortune befell the Subaru star on his way back to service when he ran dry of petrol, forcing him into retirement. This promoted his team-mate Tommi Makinen into the final pints scoring position.

Championship leader Richard Burns continues to struggle. Although the Briton has moved up to 9th overall, he lost significant amounts of time to the leaders on each of the three stages, most significantly on SS6, when he dropped 1m04.8s to event leader Loeb. He is now 3m05.2s off the lead.

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