Loeb Takes Lead in Greece

WRC Championship leader Sebastien Loeb has taken the lead of the Acropolis Rally at the end of Leg One

Loeb Takes Lead in Greece

Loeb took three impressive stage victories on the leg, including both runnings of the Elatia to Zeli stage on SS4 and SS7. The Frenchman was particularly impressive on the latter, completing the 32.54km test 13.4 seconds faster than his double-World Championship winning teammate Carlos Sainz.

The scene is now set for a close event with the top four cars covered by only 17.7 seconds, after four different drivers winning the day's six stages.

Peugeot's Marcus Gronholm ended the day 6.1s seconds behind Loeb in second, after taking two stage wins. Gronholm took both SS2 and SS5 which were the 18.44 km runnings of Eleftherohori. The Finn's day was not easy though after having to resort to using the manual gearshift on SS4 after his regular system developed problems on SS3.

Sainz is an impressive third, only 14 seconds off his teammates' leading pace. The Spaniard took his first stage victory since he was brought out of retirement, heading teammate Loeb by 0.7 seconds on SS6.

Toni Gardemeister is in fourth position despite his engine losing power twice on SS2. The works Ford Focus driver had a consistent day, finishing runner-up in two stages and only completing one stage outside the top four.

Privateer Mikko Hirvonen, who had stolen the show after the morning's three stages, ended Leg One in fifth. The Finn had taken a surprise lead with one stage win on SS3, however, he lost the lead when his 2004-spec Ford Focus lost three gears on SS5.

Championship contender Petter Solberg had a nightmare day. The Subaru driver went off the road three times on SS2 and lost his bootlid. He then suffered driveshaft problems that hampered his progress on this afternoon's stages. He is now more than three minutes behind Loeb in 14th.

Skoda's miserable run in the World Rally Championship continued with two of their three cars retiring.

Armin Schwarz retired between SS2 and SS3 after the German's Fabia WRC suffered engine failure. Teammate Janne Tuohino also went out after hitting a rock 5km from the end of SS2. He then radioed clutch failure from the startline of the next test.

Pos Driver Make Time 1. Loeb Citroen 24:37.6 2. Gronholm Peugeot + 6.1 3. Sainz Citroen + 14.0 4. Gardemeister Ford + 17.7 5. Hirvonen Ford + 48.8 6. Rovanpera Mitsubishi +1:08.3 7. Solberg Ford +1:10.7 8. Galli Mitsubishi +1:37.8 9. Martin Peugeot +1:49.7 10. Johansson Subaru +2:01.4 11. Sohlberg Subaru +2:12.3 12. Paasonen Skoda +2:19.4 13. Pons Citroen +2:20.8 14. Solberg Subaru +3:07.8 15. Vovos Subaru +3:20.8 16. Higgins Ford +4:03.3 17. Papadimitriou Ford +4:44.1 18. Atkinson Subaru +7:28.7 19. Andersson Suzuki +9:05.9 20. Sarrazin Subaru +9:33.7 
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Series WRC
Drivers Sébastien Loeb
Author Tim Redmayne
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