108 crews started leg one.
Leg one was run as two tight loops of three stages, starting from the service park in Swansea's Waterfront development after Thursday night's ceremonial start in Cardiff. To the north east of Swansea, the narrow and tree-lined gravel stages extended towards the hills of Brecon and Merthyr Tydfil. Leg one was the longest of the rally at just under 141 competitive kilometres.
Leg one started with fog in the higher stages and a temperature of 9 degrees Celsius. Heavy rain set in by SS4 and remained for the afternoon.
Lindholm (Suzuki); Solberg (Ford); Latvala (Ford)
Subaru World Rally Team summary
On the first day of the final round of the 2007 FIA World Rally Championship, Petter Solberg and his Welsh co-driver Phil Mills kept their focus and consistency in some terrible conditions to finish in a solid fourth position overall. All three Subaru World Rally Team entries finished the opening day inside the top nine.
The Welsh winter brought some extremely difficult conditions. Fog limited visibility to as little as 10 metres in the morning, before the afternoon brought heavy rain and strong winds to make the routes increasingly treacherous. The muddy tracks that wound through the forests of the Brecon Beacons became more cut-up and rougher with the afternoon's second passes, which, coupled with the near-horizontal rain, made them amongst the trickiest of the season.
Petter Solberg and Phil Mills were very lucky to escape unscathed from a high-speed spin on SS1. After recovering, the duo who have had great success here in past years, completed a largely trouble free day. Like many drivers Solberg reported difficulties with windscreen mist on the latter stages, but on the final test he moved up a place into fourth overall.
Celebrating his 28th birthday, Chris Atkinson and co-driver Stephane Prevot completed the first two stages without problem, despite being caught in dense fog on SS2. They experienced a high-speed moment of their own on the final stage of the morning (SS3) which saw the duo almost completely sideways in sixth gear, but after making some changes in the midday service, left the service park more comfortable with the balance of their Impreza. Stages five and six brought problems with the heated screen on Chris' car however, which steamed up and further reduced his visibility, losing him almost two minutes and dropping him to seventh, just one second behind sixth.
Xevi Pons and Xavier Amigo were also caught out by a spin on stage two, and experienced oversteer for the morning's loop that meant they lacked the confidence required to push hard along the worsening routes. A similar change in service improved the car's stability -- a critical element on such twisty, narrow and treacherous roads and with such bad weather. On the final stages Pons' car suffered from the same demisting problem as Atkinson and Solberg's, but he kept out of trouble to return to service ninth overall.
Subaru World Rally Team Managing Director, Richard Taylor: "All our drivers started this difficult event at a steady pace, as planned. Every competitor has experienced horrendous weather conditions on the stages, and with two days to go we are happy to see Petter in fourth place with Chris and Xevi also in the top ten."
CAR NUMBER 7
Petter Solberg: "I've never seen Rally GB conditions like this before. Today has been very, very stressful, but quite good also. It's been good fun as the surface is so slippery. It is good we are in fourth, but I hope we can climb from there. We will try everything we can here to improve on our position, so we will see tomorrow how we go. It's going to be a tough rally and a long rally so I am not giving up for a podium."
CAR NUMBER 8
Chris Atkinson: "We struggled with the screen which kept fogging up in the last two stages, and it was always on my side so I couldn't see much. I was driving with my head tilted, trying to see round the side. I drove the last stage with my window down which helped, but there was mud coming in. The conditions out there today have just been unreal --torrential rain, full fog, just no visibility. You need absolute confidence in the car, and you can see a few people having problems today."
CAR NUMBER 17
Xevi Pons: "The screen was just completely misty for the last three stages, and I just didn't see anything, it's incredible. And also the last stage, it was very foggy so it was very difficult. For me, it's my first time in these conditions, but okay, I have arrived here at the end of the day. This is important. Tomorrow I think will be better if the screen is ok, as that is more important than the conditions so I am looking forward to it."
Tomorrow's leg takes competitors through seven stages, including a 1.10km Superspecial inside the Cardiff Millennium Stadium. Split into two loops to the north east of the service park, the stages venture further into the Brecon Beacons, where the weather is likely to be even worse.