Petter Solberg's team manager Ken Rees has admitted he feared the flu-ridden Norwegian would not make the start of Rally Japan last night.
Solberg leads the event after the first loop of stages, but Rees said he was amazed the former World Rally champion even made it out of bed to the start. Solberg has been suffering from the flu since he arrived in Japan last weekend, and he missed the FIA's pre-event press conference yesterday afternoon.
Rees said: "I called up to his room yesterday to get him down for the press conference. He asked me to go up to the room to see him. I got in there and he was sweating and shaking really badly. I have to say, at that point, I didn't think we were going to start. He went back to bed and got some more sleep, then we got him up for the start and he managed it.
"I'm surprised at what Petter has achieved this morning. It shows what a resilient fella he is. You can tell he's not himself, normally he'd be jumping up and down, but he's just really quiet. He got 10 hours sleep last night, if we can get him the same again today, I think he'll be fine. He's better today than he was yesterday."
Solberg admitted the morning had been a struggle. "I'm finding it hard to focus toward the end of the stage, that's when I'm getting tired," he said. "It's tough, but it's OK. It's good to be leading, that helps a little bit and now I want to try and increase that lead in the afternoon."
With the crews at the front of the field talking about the road cleaning effect, Solberg said drivers farther back on the road – such as himself, running fourth – were suffering their own issues.
"The road might be cleaning," said Solberg, "but we're getting ruts coming through, so I'd say it's the same for us all."
Solberg has not won a round of the World Rally Championship for five years.