Loeb Leads at the End of Day One

Sebastien Loeb holds a staggering two-minute lead after the first leg of the Rally Cyprus

Loeb Leads at the End of Day One

The Frenchman won five of the day's six stages and knows that victory is his provided he can nurse his Xsara through Cyprus' searing heat and rough gravel stages.

Subaru's Petter Solberg looked to be the only driver capable of living with Loeb's pace. Solberg won the first of the day's stages but his chances effectively ended on SS4 when his turbo failed. Solberg then 'retired' on SS6 with electronic problems, but could still manage a points finish should he restart tomorrow under Super Rally regulations.

The number of problems encountered by the leading runners meant that neither of the other drivers holding the podium positions are nominated for manufacturer points.

Privateer Manfred Stohl lies in second place, two minutes behind Loeb, despite reverting to manual gear-shift after his paddle-shift failed. Ford's Henning Solberg lies in third overnight, a further minute down the road.

"I've had problem's today but only small ones," Henning Solberg said. "It is mainly just the tyres - we've had the punctures but the tyre mousse has worked."

Markko Martin recovered from a delaminated tyre on the day's first stage to end in fourth. "Without the puncture today it could have been quite interesting but now we are just driving to the limit of the road," commented Martin.

But it was worse for teammate Marcus Gronholm, who retired with timing belt failure. Gronholm has confirmed he will not restart tomorrow.

Harri Rovanpera suffered transmission difficulties, dropping to seventh place. Ford's Toni Gardemeister, who was lying third at lunch, suffered more overheating problems and lost four minutes during SS4 after having to change a punctured tyre.

Mitsubishi's Gilles Panizzi lost more than 20 minutes after stopping to fix his engine on SS1. His situation was compounded when he lost third gear for SS2 and SS3.

Rally Cyprus - End of leg one leaderboard:

Pos  Driver       Make       Time/Gap
 1.  Loeb         Citroen    2h01:10.8
 2.  Stohl        Citroen    +  2:04.2
 3.  H. Solberg   Ford       +  3:01.8
 4.  Martin       Peugeot    +  3:16.8
 5.  Warmbold     Ford       +  3:44.3
 6.  Duval        Citroen    +  4:47.7
 7.  Rovanpera    Mitsubishi +  5:04.7
 8.  Gardemeister Ford       +  5:26.7
 9.  Tuohino      Skoda      +  5:47.6
10.  Kresta       Ford       +  5:56.8
 

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