WRC

Rally Japan: Series leg 1 midway report

Midday wrap: Solberg rules in Japan A flu-ridden Petter Solberg drove a near-perfect morning to open a 10-second lead on Rally Japan. The Citroen C4 WRC driver was unhappy with the set-up of his car through last night's two Sapporo Dome...

Midday wrap: Solberg rules in Japan

A flu-ridden Petter Solberg drove a near-perfect morning to open a 10-second lead on Rally Japan.

The Citroen C4 WRC driver was unhappy with the set-up of his car through last night's two Sapporo Dome stages, but he was quickest out of the blocks when the cars hit the dirt this morning. Fastest through the long stages - Iwanke and Sikot - he was third quickest on the morning's final short test.

"It's been good this morning," said Solberg. "It's very fast, but I can still go quicker. I'm happy so far and not feeling too bad. When you start the stages you start to forget about not feeling so well."

World Rally Championship leader Sebastien Loeb is sixth at lunchtime 36.6 seconds off Solberg's rally-leading pace. The bulk of the Frenchman's time loss came in the morning's opening test. "I couldn't find any rhythm in there at all," said Loeb. "I tried to push, but it just wasn't working. Maybe it's the road surface, maybe I'm cleaning - I don't know."

Loeb's times improved through the next two stages, but running first on the road on the soft and very dry roads was not helping as he swept the loose gravel from the line for the crews behind.

Given the Sebastien Ogier was just one car behind Loeb, he was driving well to hold second place behind Solberg. "It's not easy," said Citroen Total World Rally Team driver. "We are still cleaning the road."

Dani Sordo was a trouble-free third with the top-running Ford of Mikko Hirvonen right on his tail, just nine tenths of a second down. Hirvonen admitted the ruts appearing in the road were not making the job easy. Ford's second Finn, Jari-Matti Latvala, was 6.9 seconds behind Hirvonen.

"I don't think I was completely awake on the first stage this morning," said Latvala. "But it's better now." Latvala softened his Ford for the second two stages of the loop and found more grip from the Focus RS WRC.

The only major retirement from the manufacturer crews was Khalid Al Qassimi, who rolled his Ford on the opening stage this morning.

Swede Patrik Flodin has moved into the lead of the Production Car World Rally Championship after his fellow Subaru driver, local hero Toshi Arai crashed out on SS5.

Ford Fiesta S2000 driver Jari Ketomaa leads the Super 2000 World Rally Championship standings by 37.2 seconds from the similarly mounted Martin Prokop.

-source: wrc

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About this article
Series WRC
Drivers Petter Solberg , Sébastien Loeb , Jari-Matti Latvala , Sébastien Ogier , Jari Ketomaa
Teams Citroën World Rally Team