Gronholm leads in Corsica

Marcus Gronholm has taken a surprise early lead on the Tour de Corse after a shortened opening loop

Gronholm leads in Corsica

The first stage of the event had to be cancelled due to spectators in dangerous positions.

Once the rally got underway, Gronholm took control and won both SS2 and SS3 - despite the widespread belief that he would struggle to match the Citroens on asphalt.

He completed the morning with a 2.9-second lead over Dani Sordo, who is 1.2 seconds in front of his Citroen team leader Sebastien Loeb.

Gronholm was satisfied with his early form, but suspects Loeb will gain on him during the repeat run through the stages this afternoon.

"On the second run he is always finding some speed from somewhere," said the Finn.

Loeb was not so sure, and suggested that Citroen's usual asphalt advantage might not be so apparent this weekend.

"We saw in Catalunya, on the second day, we were flat-out and sometimes Marcus was faster, so now we'll see if it's the same," Loeb said. "It looks like it will be very difficult."

Gronholm's teammate Mikko Hirvonen has already retired from the leg, having crashed and ripped a wheel from his Ford in SS3.

Sordo reckoned Hirvonen's incident probably cost him the stage win, as he was only 0.1 seconds slower than Gronholm through Arbellara-Aullene.

"The first split went very well, but after I saw Mikko in the road I lost a little bit of concentration," said Sordo. "I'm pushing, but it's very difficult to catch Marcus, he's very fast."

Francois Duval currently holds fourth in the OMV Kronos Citroen, but was unhappy with his pace during the loop. He is currently 23 seconds behind the top three, and just ahead of the leading two Subarus.

A rapid time in SS3 moved Petter Solberg ahead of both Chris Atkinson and Jari-Matti Latvala and into sixth position, despite the Norweigan complaining of understeer in the stage. All three works Subarus are in the points-scoring positions, with Xevi Pons running eighth at present.

The initial top ten is completed by Jan Kopecky's privateer Skoda, and Alessandro Bettega, who is driving a Ford Focus WRC this weekend as his reward for winning the Fiesta Sporting Trophy International.

The new Suzuki SX4 WRC has made a low-key debut so far, with Nicolas Bernardi currently in 12th place - behind Ford privateer Andreas Mikkelsen, but ahead of Henning Solberg, Manfred Stohl and Matthew Wilson.

"At the moment, we don't look at the times of the other drivers," he said.

"We have to check a lot of data on the car. It's more important to get to the end of the rally. It's our first stages with the car and we are happy."

Leading positions after SS3:

Pos Driver Make Time 1. Gronholm Ford 24:49.4 2. Sordo Citroen + 2.9 3. Loeb Citroen + 4.1 4. Duval Citroen + 26.9 5. P Solberg Subaru + 27.7 6. Atkinson Subaru + 29.5 7. Latvala Ford + 33.4 8. Pons Subaru + 48.9 9. Kopecky Skoda +1:13.8 10. Bettega Ford +1:15.6 
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