Duval Takes Surprise Early Lead

Francois Duval has taken a surprise lead on the Rally Deutschland after Citroen dominated the morning's opening three stages.      

Duval Takes Surprise Early Lead

Duval won the third stage of the day to move into a 3.2-second lead over teammate and championship favourite Sebastien Loeb. It is the first time Duval has led a rally this season.

Duval has been let off the leash for this weekend's event by team boss Guy Frequelin after being told to be cautious on the last two rallies.

The Belgian was rested earlier this season after a series of crashes in his first events with the French manufacturer. But after conservative drives to seventh and eighth on the last two events, Duval has now been told he can push for victory this weekend on his favoured asphalt surface, synonymous with the German event.

Loeb won the first two stages of the day, however he lost more than six seconds on the first running through the 20.47-km stage through Schones Moselland 1 to end up behind Duval.

The Citroen pair are dominating the event, and the pair already have a lead of nearly half a minute back to their nearest rival, the Peugeot of Marcus Gronholm.

Gronholm, who won the last round in Finland to break Loeb's six rally winning streak, looks as if he will already have to settle for third, after being unable to get near the pace of the Citroen drivers.

Subaru's Petter Solberg ended the first three stages in fourth but is already more than a minute behind Duval, having lost time on the leaders after a brief off on SS1. The Norwegian suffered no major damage to his Impreza and was able to continue.

Ford works driver Roman Kresta had a strong showing on his return as one of the carmaker's nominated point scorers.

Ford nominated Mikko Hirvonen for his home event at the last round in Finland, but have reinstated the Czech driver for Rally Deutschland, and already got the edge on the team's lead driver Toni Gardemeister, who is 13.4 seconds behind his teammate in sixth.

Works Subaru driver Chris Atkinson had a nightmare start to the event, after suffering turbo boost problems on the first stage. Unable to repair the problem the Australian continued to lose time and dropped to 12th by the end of SS3, more than three and a half minutes down on leader Duval.

Results after SS3:

Pos Driver Make Time 1. Duval Citroen 35:19.7 2. Loeb Citroen + 3.2 3. Gronholm Peugeot + 30.3 4. Solberg Subaru + 1:14.2 5. Kresta Ford + 1:15.9 6. Gardemeister Ford + 1:29.3 7. Galli Mitsubishi + 1:30.3 8. Martin Peugeot + 1:31.4 9. Sola Ford + 1:43.0 10. Schwarz Skoda + 1:48.7 11. Sarrazin Subaru + 1:56.3 12. Rovanpera Mitsubishi + 2:03.8 13. Pons CitroÃ"n + 2:41.2 14. Kopecky Skoda + 3:00.9 15. Vojtech Peugeot + 3:27.6 16. Atkinson Subaru + 3:30.7 17. Sordo Citroen + 3:59.0 18. Meeke Citroen + 4:16.6 19. Wilks Suzuki + 4:25.9 20. Andersson Suzuki + 4:56.6 All Timing Unofficial 

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Author Tim Redmayne
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