Loeb Takes Early Lead in NZ

Reigning World Champion Sebastien Loeb snatched the overall lead halfway through the first leg of the New Zealand Rally on Friday

Loeb Takes Early Lead in NZ

The Frenchman just held off former World Champion Marcus Gronholm at the completion of the first four of Friday's eight stages north of Auckland.

Current championship leader Petter Solberg of Norway was third overall, just eight-tenths of a second behind Loeb, after winning the opening stage in his Subaru despite having to go out first on the gravel roads.

"It's going much better than anticipated. I'm over the moon with how it's going," Solberg said.

"You have to drive very precisely on the loose gravel, I've made a couple of mistakes ... but overall, I've got no worries."

Solberg's teammate Chris Atkinson scored his first ever stage win when he topped the times in the second stage.

The Australian also finished second in the fourth stage to be sixth overall.

"The stage win was nice, but we weren't planning it and don't want to get carried away," Atkinson said.

"We're just going to carry on running at this pace and try and understand more about the conditions."

Gronholm won the second and fourth stages in his Peugeot to climb into second place overall while the ultra-consistent Loeb, who won the season-opening rally in Monaco, finished second in each of the first three stages then third in the fourth stage to grab a narrow lead.

Solberg, who won the New Zealand rally last year and is leading this year's championship after winning the previous two rounds in Sweden and Mexico, was leading after the first three stages but slipped back to third after placing fifth on the fourth stage.

The three-day New Zealand rally is the fourth round of the 16-rally season. The 20-stage event covers a total distance of 1128 kilometres.

shares
comments
Kresta Out of Rally New Zealand
Previous article

Kresta Out of Rally New Zealand

Next article

Loeb Leads After Leg One in NZ

Loeb Leads After Leg One in NZ
Load comments
The WRC heirs scrapping to assume Ogier's throne in 2022 Plus

The WRC heirs scrapping to assume Ogier's throne in 2022

Eight-time World Rally Championship king Sebastien Ogier has abdicated (well, gone part-time) in 2022, meaning for just the second time in the past decade we will have a different champion this year. Autosport picks out the drivers gunning to take his place and take over the mantle as the WRC's new ruler

WRC
Jan 20, 2022
The 'Cumbrian Maranello' where Ford's WRC giants are born Plus

The 'Cumbrian Maranello' where Ford's WRC giants are born

M-Sport is changing the game as a World Rally Championship powerhouse, inspired by Ferrari's legendary Formula 1 base. Autosport was afforded a behind-the-scenes look at its new headquarters, the result of a vision that has taken three decades to be realised, where its new Rally1 Puma took shape

WRC
Jan 19, 2022
The WRC star that's earned the right to lead M-Sport's revival Plus

The WRC star that's earned the right to lead M-Sport's revival

Part-time opportunities with Citroen and Hyundai have offered brief glimpses of what Craig Breen can do in a World Rally Championship car. Now signed up by M-Sport to lead it into the WRC's new hybrid era, Breen has been given the chance he's pursued for so long and is determined to make the most of it

WRC
Jan 18, 2022
Why the WRC's 'modern Group B' era was rallying at its bonkers best Plus

Why the WRC's 'modern Group B' era was rallying at its bonkers best

The World Rally Championship has brought down the curtain on the aggressive, aero-laden generation of cars first introduced in 2017 that have been likened to the 1980s Group B icons. As the championship prepares to begin a new era of Rally1 hybrid cars, its stars explain just why the outgoing machines were so special

WRC
Dec 24, 2021
Ranking the top 10 WRC drivers of 2021 Plus

Ranking the top 10 WRC drivers of 2021

On the eve of a new hybrid era for the World Rally Championship, the 2021 season was a blockbuster fought out between Toyota's two top dogs, with a familiar figure eventually emerging on top after a final showdown at Monza. Autosport picks out the 10 best performers from the top class and its supporting cast

WRC
Dec 21, 2021
Why Ogier's WRC swansong was a season to savour Plus

Why Ogier's WRC swansong was a season to savour

He’s shuffling into semi-rally-retirement, but Toyota star Sebastien Ogier was at the peak of his powers in the final season for the high downforce era-World Rally Championship cars. Despite Toyota's domination, there was still much to enjoy as the old master emerged atop a fierce title fight against team-mate Elfyn Evans

WRC
Dec 19, 2021
How WRC legend Ogier will be remembered by his peers Plus

How WRC legend Ogier will be remembered by his peers

After winning his eighth WRC title, Sebastien Ogier has drawn the curtain on his full-time rallying career. To understand Ogier's legacy, many of his former rivals, team-mates and colleagues have shared their thoughts on a vastly successful career

WRC
Nov 26, 2021
Ranking lost WRC legend Richard Burns' 10 best rallies Plus

Ranking lost WRC legend Richard Burns' 10 best rallies

Richard Burns was a determined driver who took on the best rally drivers in the world during a boom period in the early 2000s, and beat them. On the 20th anniversary of his crowning glory in winning the 2001 WRC title, and 16 years on from his death on the same date, Autosport picks out his 10 greatest drives

WRC
Nov 25, 2021