Solberg slips past Loeb

The fight for the World Rally Championship exploded into life on the opening morning of Wales Rally GB, with Carlos Sainz crashing out and Citroen team-mate Sebastien Loeb losing his early lead to Subaru's Petter Solberg on SS4

Solberg slips past Loeb

Following his superspecial win in Cardiff on Thursday evening, Solberg was forced to play second fiddle to Loeb on the opening two stages of the day. Then Sainz crashed out, after losing concentration following problems with his on-board camera that kept catching fire.

Significantly, that meant Citroen's motorsport chief Guy Frequelin told Loeb to back off from his head-to-head with Solberg, to ensure that he scores manufacturers' championship points, and the Frenchman responded by setting a time 8.5secs slower than his rival on SS4, Rheola. That turned his lead into a 4.7sec deficit to Solberg.

"If I want to win the drivers' championship I have to finish ahead of Petter," said Loeb. "The stages were very slippery this morning, and there was some places where it was very difficult to read the road. There was a lot of mud in fast places, so it's been a difficult morning."

Solberg said: "It's very easy to go off in these conditions. It's going to a long weekend for myself and Sebastien, I can tell you."

Tommi Makinen, driving in his last ever WRC event, is third in his Subaru, but is already 58.3secs off the leading pace. British rally hero Colin McRae is fourth for Citroen, despite a brake problem on the first stage this morning.

Peugeot duo Gilles Panizzi and Harri Rovanpera are next up, with Francois Duval flying the flag for Ford in seventh, following Markko Martin's retirement with overheating. Peugeot newboy Freddy Loix is the final point scorer in eighth position, but Marcus Gronholm also went out after an off on SS3 cost him 30mins.

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