Loeb leads after superspecial

Sebastien Loeb made a perfect start to Rally Argentina with fastest time around the event-opening superspecial stage on the outskirts of Villa Carlos Paz

Loeb leads after superspecial

Run in late autumn sunshine, Loeb was 0.9 seconds faster than Petter Solberg around the 1.8-mile gravel stage. Sebastien Ogier completed a Citroen one-two-three placing his DS3 WRC just a tenth of a second behind Solberg.

With thousands of fans pouring out of the stage, Loeb struggled to open his door to talk to the media at the end of the opening stage. When he did, he was smiling.

"This is only the preview," he said. "The show starts tomorrow. There's a very long way to go. I have one second, which is nothing. Okay, I am happy from the start, but let's see tomorrow."

Loeb and his colleagues praised the organisers for the introduction of the superspecial stage, which was over the road from where the Pro-Racing stage (among the world's most popular superspecials) used to run before it was turned into a holiday park.

"The stage is very nice, I like this one, but we have to see tomorrow," continued the early leader.

Solberg was fired up after his broken driveshaft during shakedown. He said: "I am on a mission. This stage is as important as any of them and when you want to win, you want to win everything."

Ogier added: "It's a nice feeling to start the rally with such a beautiful stage. There were so many people in there, it was nice to drive."

Ford's fastest was Jari-Matti Latvala, who was 1.5s behind Loeb. Latvala admitted the broken gearbox he'd suffered at shakedown was at the back of his mind in SS1.

"It was a bit difficult after not such a good start at shakedown," he said. "But once I found there was good grip in the stage I was okay. I know I could do better, but it wasn't a bad start."

Mikko Hirvonen was 0.2s behind his team-mate with local hero Federico Villagra sixth quickest, albeit 7.2s off the fastest time.

Ukrainian driver Yuriy Protasov was fastest of the Production Car World Rally Championship runners in his Mitsubishi Lancer Evo X.

The main competition gets underway with 99 miles of competition in six stages to the west of Villa Carlos Paz on Friday.

 Driver Time 1. Sebastien Loeb 2m25.9 2. Petter Solberg + 0.9 3. Sébastien Ogier + 1.0 4. J-M.Latvala + 1.5 5. Mikko Hirvonen + 1.7 6. F.Villagra + 7.2 7. Matthew Wilson + 7.4 8. Mads Østberg + 8.4 9. Ken Block + 9.2 10. Yuriy Protasov + 9.8 
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