Loeb Takes Early Lead in Sardinia

World champion Sebastien Loeb took advantage of Marcus Gronholm's misfortune to take a 7.9 second lead for Citroen after three stages of the Rally of Italy on Friday

Loeb Takes Early Lead in Sardinia

Finn Gronholm had blasted away the opposition on the first stage of the day in Sardinia but rolled his Peugeot on the loose gravel tracks of the third, Mamone, stage.

Frenchman Loeb, who had started the day with a disappointing ninth place on the first run, was quickest over the 18.57 km Mamone stage to take the lead halfway through the first day of the rally.

Norway's championship leader Petter Solberg, who won in Sardinia last year, was third overall behind Finland's Mikko Hirvonen.

The Finn, giving an extraordinary performance in a two-year-old version of the Ford Focus, was third fastest on both the second and third runs to take second place overall behind Loeb.

Solberg, twice a winner this year already, is just 0.8 seconds behind Hirvonen with Belgian Francois Duval fourth for Citroen another 0.4 seconds back. Australian Chris Atkinson was fifth for Subaru.

Gronholm returned to the service park to have the damage to his car assessed to see whether he will be able to take part in the afternoon's three stages and the final two days of action in the rally.

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