Gronholm moves into the lead

Marcus Gronholm took his customary control of the Rally Finland to move into a strong lead at the start of the opening leg

Gronholm moves into the lead

Although Gronholm admitted to small mistakes in last night's superspecial, the Finn asserted his authority in his favourite event as the rally entered the traditional forest sections, winning all three of opening loop of stages, negotiating heavy rain in places.

Gronholm, who has won five of the last six Rally Finland, holds an 11.7-second lead over countryman and teammate Mikko Hirvonen, who has also impressed in the early running.

Hirvonen was second to Gronholm on the opening two stages this morning, and was only 0.1 seconds off the pace of his more experienced teammate through SS3, the 11.81 km stage of Laukaa.

Petter Solberg is not far behind Hirvonen, and is proving that the extra testing work that Subaru carried out over the summer break specifically for gravel rallies might be paying off.

Solberg is just 2.3 seconds adrift of Hirvonen in third, after producing the third quickest time in each of this morning's stages.

Reigning champion Sebastien Loeb, who won last night's superspecial, is predictably finding the Finnish forests tougher to master than the German asphalt of last weekend. He is only in fourth position after this morning's stages.

However, he is only 4.3 seconds off Hirvonen, in what is shaping up for an intriguing battle.

Subaru's Chris Atkinson is on his own in fifth place, ahead of Mitsubishi privateer Daniel Carlsson.

Carlsson is locked in a tight battle for sixth, however. The Swede is holding only a 0.1 second advantage over both Henning Solberg's OMV Peugeot and Kristian Solberg's privateer Subaru.

Stobart VK M-Sport Ford driver Matthew Wilson lost more than three minutes to the leaders when he got a puncture and stopped to change the wheel on SS2.

Local driver Janne Tuohino also had problems in his privateer Citroen Xsara, when a broken intercom meant he heard no pace notes for the first 10km of SS2.

Loeb's Kronos Racing Citroen teammate Dani Sordo also found this morning trickier than last weekend's Rally Deutschland, where he finished second. Sordo currently lies in 15th.

Pos Driver Car Time  1. Gronholm Ford 23:00.1 2. Hirvonen Ford + 11.7 3. Solberg Subaru + 14.0 4. Loeb Citroen + 16.6 5. Atkinson Subaru + 27.1 6. Carlsson Mitsubishi + 56.5 8. Galli Peugeot + 56.6 7. Solberg Peugeot + 56.6 9. Sohlberg Subaru + 58.7 10. Valimaki Mitsubishi + 59.6 11. Tuohino Citroen + 1:03.0 12. Katajamaki Ford + 1:05.8 13. Stohl Peugeot + 1:11.0 14. Hanninen Mitsubishi + 1:12.8 15. Sordo Citroen + 1:12.9 

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Loeb takes early lead in Finland

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