WRC

Duval jumps to early lead in France

Francois Duval jumped into the early lead in Rallye de France - Tour de Corse; besting his Ford teammate Markko Martin by 15.1 seconds. The duo battled it out in the first three stages: Duval opened the day with the fast time on SS1, Martin ...

Francois Duval jumped into the early lead in Rallye de France - Tour de Corse; besting his Ford teammate Markko Martin by 15.1 seconds. The duo battled it out in the first three stages: Duval opened the day with the fast time on SS1, Martin answered with SS2 win, Duval came back to take SS3.

The storms from Thursday night subsided to start the day on the slick damp asphalt roads on the tiny Mediterranean island with sunshine. Clouds returned over the mountainous trek; however the rain stayed at bay for today's

"I've made no serious mistakes and my tyre choice has been good," commented the early rallye leader. "I really enjoy asphalt rallies and it's good for me when conditions are damp and slippery like this. My car has been perfect all day and I just hope I can stay in this position until Sunday afternoon."

Martin was not quite as pleased with his tyre choice on the final two stages, "We made a good start this morning and it was a nice feeling to have everything going well from the beginning. I drove at a comfortable pace, but could have pushed harder.

"But this afternoon I chose the wrong tyres. The roads were 90 per cent dry with just a few damp patches. I expected more damp roads but I knew within the first 500 metres of stage three that I had made a mistake," explained Martin.

Current points leader, Sebastien Loeb placed his Citroen ahead of the Fords on the final stage in Friday's competition. Loeb could clinch the 2004 World Rally drivers' title this weekend. However, the Frenchman was not pleased in the early going as the Citroen had an understeering problem.

"I had to pick up the pace a bit (in the final two stages)," said Loeb. "Carlos (Sainz) had got ahead me, Marcus Gronholm was not far behind. The special stage was dry, my Xsara was perfect again - everything is going well on our side. Petter Solberg appears to be struggling to get on the pace. Things are going in the way we wanted, and I feel slightly less tense now that the match is underway. But nothing is over yet..."

Loeb's nearest challenger, Petter Solberg did not have a good day after winning the last two WRC events, the Subaru driver sat back in seventh at the end of leg one; over two minutes adrift of Duval.

"The gap is quite normal," said Solberg before the final two stages. "We are on asphalt, that's all. On the first stage, it was very slippery and I didn't have a good feeling. The tyres I chose were possibly too hard."

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Series WRC
Teams Citroën World Rally Team