Day 1am: Loeb's fast start

Sebastien Loeb and the Citroen Xsara re-established their recent asphalt dominance by blitzing to the top of the leaderboard in Catalunya. Both Loeb and team partner Carlos Sainz leapt ahead of early leader Petter Solberg after the Norwegian punctured on SS2.

Day 1am: Loeb's fast start

Loeb won both SS2 and SS3 to lead the local favourite and championship leader Sainz by 9.5 seconds. The other championship contender Richard Burns struggled on the runs through Alpens les Llosses and La Pobla de Lillet. Markko Martin also dropped two spots and is now fourth overall, just behind Solberg.

The Norwegian's Subaru is now 20 seconds off the lead, having been hampered by the SS2 flat without being forced to stop. He fought back with third-fastest time on SS3.

Martin struggled with neck problems following his accident in Corsica last weekend. "The tarmac g-forces are proving too much," said Martin's co-driver Beef Park. After a strong start, Martin's team-mate Francois Duval has dropped to ninth after stalling on the SS2 startline. The top nine are covered by under 50 seconds, however, so the rally is still wide open.

Peugeot cannot be a happy camp at the moment. Three Citroens, a Ford and a Subaru are to be found on the leaderboard before the first 206 - this time Richard Burns is the best Peugeot in sixth overall. Gilles Panizzi has dropped back further into an unfortunate eighth, whilst Marcus Gronholm is not even in the top ten.

Most of the form is to be explained by wrong tyre choices. Many runners opted for tyres that were too soft in the cold conditions. But Loeb, as so often, had it just right and was convincing enough even though he said his pace notes weren't ideal.

There are five stages this afternoon. We'll have an update later on today.


Sebastien Loeb (Citroen) 36m36.2s
Carlos Sainz (Citroen) +9.5s
Petter Solberg (Subaru) +20.0s
Markko Martin (Ford) +20.9s
Colin McRae (Citroen) +25.2s
Richard Burns (Peugeot) +25.4s

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