Sun, Aug 13, 2006 - Page 24 News List

Old hand Loeb dominates start at Rally of Germany

AFP , TRIER, GERMANY

WRC title holder Sebastian Loeb and Daniel Elena drift in the Citoen Xsara during the ``Moselwein'' stage of the Rally of Germany near Kluesserath, Germany, on Friday. The rally ends today.

PHOTO: EPA

Double world champion Sebastien Loeb dominated the opening day of the Rally of Germany on Friday as he targeted a sixth win this season.

The French driver was 42.7 seconds ahead of Daniel Sordo of Spain with Finland's Toni Gardemeister, completing a Citroen top three, at 2 minutes, 6.0 seconds off the pace.

Finland's Marcus Gronholm, in a Ford Focus, was fourth at 2 minutes, 11.4 seconds behind.

Loeb, who has won this event for the last four years, had gone into the Rally of Germany with a 29-point lead over Gronholm in the world championship standings and won five of the day's eight stages on Friday.

Kronos Citroen teammate Sordo won the other three stages on the demanding tarmac race.

Sordo, recently named the official Kronos number two driver for this race and the next round in Finland from August 18-20, saw Loeb take the opening stage Friday but responded well to snatch the second as the duo set out their stall for the weekend under rainy skies.

"I knew that he was very good on the tarmac but I am a little surprised to see him ahead of the others despite the mud and rain," Loeb said.

"Dani is performing well," he said.

The Spaniard was overjoyed with his performance.

"It was a very good day and I haven't felt any pressure by being promoted to number two," Sordo said.

Gronholm's chances were not helped by a loss of more than 20 seconds when his Ford went off the track in the opening stage, an incident caused by tyre choice being reduced to a lottery by the atrocious conditions.

"We had good information regarding the tires of Gronholm and Ford," Loeb said.

"It rained a lot, much more than we thought. We have to stay concentrated for the rest of the race," he said.

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