Frenchman Sébastien Loeb (Citroën) grabbed a five-second lead over Finnish driver Mikko Hirvonen (Ford) after day one of the last rally of the season. Loeb needs to end the three day race ahead of Hirvonen to claim his sixth world champion title.
AFP - Sebastien Loeb, bidding to secure a sixth successive world title, led the season-ending Rally of Great Britain by 5.3sec from closest rival Mikko Hirvonen after the opening day in Wales on Friday.
The French Citroen star went into the race trailing Finland's Ford Focus driver Hirvonen by just a point in the championship standings.
Loeb dominated Friday's action, reaching the halfway point in the six-stage schedule with an advantage of 8.9sec over Hirvonen.
Hirvonen, bidding to win his first title, cut the lead to just four seconds with a stunning display on stage four. He and Loeb then shared the final two stages of the day.
"I'm happy to be first on the road tomorrow. Mikko is very fast, though, and it's a really exciting fight. The important thing is I'm in front for the moment, we'll see what we can do Saturday," said Loeb.
The Frenchman had an extra incentive to perform well here as his hopes of making his Formula One debut with Toro Rosso in Abu Dhabi next wekeend had been shattered when the FIA would not to grant him a super-licence.
Meanwhile, Hirvonen was happy to have trimmed Loeb's deficit after the French driver's dominant start.
"I tried to fight back but I didn't know how close I’d be," said the Finn.
"It was so slippery in there and we had a lot of moments, but now it’s going well. It’s a great fight. I've really enjoyed myself.
"My driving wasn't perfect this morning but it’s been better this afternoon. Now I must keep this up tomorrow."
Petter Solberg lies third for Citroen with a 1.1sec lead over Dani Sordo in a Citroen.
Hirvonen's Ford team-mate Jari-Matti Latvala is down in ninth after a miserable opening day which saw him suffer a driveshaft failure that the team were not allowed to repair until the end of the day.
Date created : 2009-10-24