Loeb top in Finland rally Day 1
EARLY LEAD: Citroen's Sebastien Loeb heads the Rally Finland after the first stage.
JYVASKYLA, Finland - French rally veteran Sebastien Loeb posted the fastest time in his Citroen DS3 for Thursday's three specials on the opening day of the 2012 Rally of Finland after a star showing in Wednesday's qualifying.
At the end of the day the eight-times Wworld champion had a 7.3sec lead over Finnish pair Jari-Matti Latvala of Ford and Citroen's Mikko Hirvonen.
World championship leader Loeb, who won here in 2011, set off 10th as the drivers converged on Lahti, north of Helsinki, and promptly won the opening special at Koukunmaa, adding the third at Mynnila after Norwegian Petter Solberg bagged the second, the superspecial at Jokimaa, in his Ford Fiesta.
Solberg, the 2003 World champion, stood sixth overnight with 9.2sec to make up while compatriot and stablemate Mads Ostberg was fourth at 7.5sec ahead of Belgian Thierry Neuville in his Citroen.
Australian Citroen driver Chris Atkinson was provisional seventh at 15.6sec after the 30.08km stage spread across three timed specials including a 2km evening super-special at a hippodrome just outside Lahti.
"I feel well in the car at the moment and I tried really hard," Loeb said. "I know I can fight for the victory, the feeling was good and I took the opportunity to go flat out. But there are a lot of Finnish drivers wanting the victory as well so I will try my best," he told wrc.com
Leg 1 classification on August 2
1 Sebastien Loeb (France) Citroen 15min07.1sec
2 Mikko Hirvonen (Finland) Ford +07.300
3 Jari-Matti Latvala (Finland) Ford +07.3
4 Mads Ostberg (Norway) Ford +07.5
5 Thierry Neuville (Belgium) Honda + 09.0
6 Petter Solberg (Norway) Ford +09.2
7 Chris Atkinson (Australia) Peugeot +15.6
8 Evgeny Novikov (Russia) Ford +18.2
9 Ott Taenak (Estonia) Ford +21.1
10 Jari Ketomaa (Finland) Ford +33.1