Loeb Hoping to Salvage Points in Mexico

World champion Sebastien Loeb must try to salvage what he can after a nightmare first day in the Rally of Mexico

Loeb Hoping to Salvage Points in Mexico

The Frenchman starts Saturday's second leg with his Citroen in 14th place and a massive four minutes and 21 seconds adrift of the Subaru driven by Norwegian overnight leader Petter Solberg.

Loeb, whose car had to have an engine change after he smashed into a rock on Thursday's shakedown and cracked the cylinder block, was slowed by further problems throughout Friday's stages.

He cracked a strut mounting and destroyed a tyre on the road section after the day's opening stage, when he was second fastest.

The spare tyre suffered the same fate on the second stage, leaving them to tackle the third on three wheels and a rim.

"I like Rally Mexico, but it doesn't like me," said the Frenchman. "Tactically I don't have much choice.

"The car is perfect so I intend to drive as fast as reasonable in the hope that, who knows, I can salvage some points."

Solberg, giving the new Subaru an impressive debut after winning the last round in Sweden with the old one, claimed three fastest times in Friday's six stages and led from the start.

"Already the car is good enough to put us at the top of the leaderboard," said the 2003 world champion. "I know the car is capable of a lot more though and until I've got it set-up correctly I won't be completely happy."

Solberg leads Peugeot's Marcus Gronholm by 20.5 seconds, with the Finn's Estonian team mate Markko Martin third after a day of brake problems for most of the leading contenders.

"I haven't been comfortable in the car all day, often having to pump the brakes," said Gronholm. "I don't want to have another accident like I did in Sweden. It's going to be very hard for anyone to catch Petter."

Ford's world championship leader Toni Gardemeister, still struggling to shake off a dose of 'flu, was in 10th place and a minute and a half off the pace.

"I spun and stalled the engine after a tricky crest midway through stage five so I'm not happy with the day and I hope it will be better tomorrow," he said after Friday's finish. "I think I've been pushing too hard and over-driving the car.

"My 'flu isn't as bad as yesterday but I have a bad cough and feel very tired," he said.

Gardemeister has 14 points after two rallies, one clear of Martin and three ahead of Loeb and Solberg. Ford are three points clear of Peugeot in the manufacturers' standings.

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Solberg Heading for Victory in Mexico

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