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Solberg Heading for Victory in Mexico

Norwegian Petter Solberg led the Rally of Mexico into its final stages with the overall world championship lead in his grasp on a dream debut for Subaru's new car

The 2003 world champion, chasing his second victory in a row, led Peugeot's Marcus Gronholm by a comfortable 29.6 seconds with two stages and 62.6 km of competitive action remaining on Sunday.

Solberg reeled off three stage wins in a row on the rough gravel roads around the central city of Leon on Saturday to keep twice champion Gronholm at bay.

The lanky Finn had been fastest on the day's second 24.2 km test from Duarte to Otates before the Norwegian, winner in Sweden last month, moved up a gear.

"It's very tough out there and I had to be careful on a few occasions," said Solberg after returning to service halfway through the leg.

"On the first stage there were lots of big rocks in the middle of the road and I braked to avoid them rather than drive over them and take risks.

"On the second one the engine ran a little hot so I had to switch to a safer map and lost a few seconds there, but on the third one there were no problems. I'm going at a pace that I feel comfortable with."

Gronholm's Estonian team mate Markko Martin was running third, one minute and two seconds off the lead but nearly three minutes clear of fourth placed championship leader Toni Gardemeister's Ford.

Gardemeister has 14 points after two rallies, one clear of Martin and three ahead of Sebastien Loeb and Solberg. Ford are three points clear of Peugeot in the manufacturers' standings.

Belgian Francois Duval had been running fourth for Citroen but was forced to retire on stage 10 due to engine damage.

His departure from the leaderboard, followed by Spaniard Daniel Sola crashing out of seventh place, allowed world champion Loeb back into the points.

Loeb, who lost more than three minutes on Friday due to a failed shock absorber, won the day's opening seventh stage from El Zauco to Mesa 1 and moved up to sixth place.

"I like Rally Mexico, but it doesn't like me," the Frenchman had said after Friday's leg. "The car is perfect so I intend to drive as fast as reasonable in the hope that, who knows, I can salvage some points."

On a day of attrition, Czech driver Roman Kresta withdrew after a heavy frontal impact in stage eight. He had been sixth overall and the leading Ford runner.

Australian Chris Atkinson, Solberg's team mate, also retired in only his second world championship rally as a nominated Subaru driver while running fifth.

He hit a rock on stage nine, damaging the power steering, and then took the front right wheel off when it dropped into a hole on a slow corner.

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