Petter Solberg has charged into a commanding early lead in the Rally Mexico, round two of the World Rally Championship.
The former series champion benefited from being seventh in the running order and therefore getting better stage conditions than the championship leaders – who have swept the dust clear for the following cars. Solberg capitalized on that advantage to build a 17.1sec lead after the first four stages, while Citroen Junior's Sebastien Ogier made the best of his fifth place on the road to take second.
Title rivals Mikko Hirvonen and Sebastien Loeb have both been hampered by their position in the running order, but while Loeb has managed to at least stay in third for Citroen, half a minute behind Solberg, Hirvonen is a lowly sixth, nearly a minute off the pace. The Ford driver confessed his driving had not been good enough on the opening stage, but after that felt the road conditions were simply impossible for him.
Loeb and Hirvonen's teammates Dani Sordo and Jari-Matti Latvala hold fourth and fifth at present.
Stobart Ford's Henning Solberg and Matthew Wilson complete the initial top eight, while Monster Ford's newcomer Ken Block has got his World Rally Championship campaign off to a very respectable start. The American is only 16sec behind Wilson in ninth, and ahead of championship regular Federico Villagra (Munchi's Ford).
It was another bad start to a rally for Kimi Raikkonen, though. The Citroen Junior driver was slightly slowed when he clipped a rock and bent a steering component on SS1, then stopped for over half an hour on SS2 while he rectified a loose connection in the C4's fuel system.
Pos Driver Car Time/Gap
1. Petter Solberg Citroen 41m03.6s
2. Sebastien Ogier Citroen + 17.1s
3. Sebastien Loeb Citroen + 26.1s
4. Dani Sordo Citroen + 29.1s
5. Jari-Matti Latvala Ford + 40.3s
6. Mikko Hirvonen Ford + 55.2s
7. Henning Solberg Ford + 1m01.8s
8. Matthew Wilson Ford + 1m28.2s
9. Ken Block Ford + 1m45.6s
10. Federico Villagra Ford + 2m26.5s