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2012-05-25 07:05

FLYING FINN LATVALA: Ford's Jari-Matti Latvalla returned from injury to finish the first leg of the Acropolis Rally on top.

ATHENS, Greece - Finland's Jari-Matti Latvala returned from injury with the fastest time on stage one of the Rally of Greece on Thursday to take a lead of 2.8sec  over French World champion Sebastien Loeb.

The factory Ford driver missed the previous round in Argentina after breaking his left collarbone while on a cross-country skiing training run in Lapland.

His compatriot Mikko Hirvonen was third-quickest on Thursday, Norway's Mads Ostberg fourth-fastest.


Latvala was quoted as saying on the official wrc website: "I was equal with Loeb but at the end I seemed to pull out some time at the hairpins. I felt really fast in places."

Loeb is leading the standings after five rounds of the championship on 91 points, ahead of Norway's Petter Solberg's 73, Hirvonen with 70 and Ostberg on 68.

The Frenchman said: "In some places there is a lot of grip, some places no grip, so it is difficult to understand where you can push and where you have to be careful."

Solberg blamed his fifth-p ace on his decision to run soft-compound tyres on his factory Fiesta rather than the hard option chosen by his rivals. The Norwegian's tyres had lost a lot of grip by the end of the run, which he finished 14.6sec slower than Latvala.

Solberg said: "It was my decision and I believed in it. I thought it could have been colder, it was just a mistake and I should have listened to the team. OK, that's how it is and we learn from that. We are not out of it."


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