Leg 1: Loeb on course for first win

Sebastien Loeb has completed his near-total domination of the opening day in Germany with six fastest times from the seven stages and has held the lead since the morning's second test. Only the Peugeot duo of Marcus Gronholm and Richard Burns broke Loeb's stranglehold on the event when they shared the win on the opening stage.

Leg 1: Loeb on course for first win

Thanks to a gearbox problem that dropped Gronholm way down the order this afternoon, Burns has easily been the leading Peugeot driver but, cruelly (as far as his quest for his first win of the season) the World Champion has had to face an inspired Citroen asphalt ace and is sandwiched between Loeb and his French team mate Philippe Bugalski.

Fourth place tonight is held by Colin McRae and that is currently a position that keeps the World Championship wide open. While Gronholm's points haul is currently looking slim, Burns and McRae have the chance to undo the damage done in Finland two weeks ago. And with Citroen ineligible for Manufacturers Championship points, the season-long battle between Ford and Peugeot is set to rumble on providing McRae keeps his head and stays at best on Burns' tail.

In the important FIA Junior World Rally Championship, 28-year old Ulsterman Niall McShea has led the category since today's third stage with his John Lloyd supported Opel Corsa. This series is a vital shop window for new talent and is carefully observed by factory team managers looking for their next generation star drivers. Last year's series winner was Sebastien Loeb, now established in the Citroen team and heading the leaderboard this evening.

Today's stages have been run through the vineyards of the Mosel region where Germany's wine industry has its heart. Tomorrow the vines are left to recover from the onslaught, notably from Mitsubishi's Francois Delecour. "We went off into the vines and were so close I could see they were Riesling!" quipped co-driver Daniel Grataloup. Sadly for the embattled Mitsubishi team, Alister McRae's second car was the day's biggest retirement after engine problems sidelined the Scot.

Saturday's action takes the crews to Baumholder, Germany's military training area, where tank tracks have left the concrete roads scarred and ready to rip tyres to pieces. Mix in the 'hinkelsteins', stone blocks marking the road, and deep ditches and you've got a recipe for potential disaster. The weather forecast isn't too hot either and so if it's slippery as well then tomorrow night's leaderboard may have a very different look to it...

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