01 Jun 08
Sebastien Loeb extended his rally lead on Sunday’s opening stage, pulling 26 seconds further ahead of second placed Petter Solberg and effectively ending any chance of being caught through driving alone.
Loeb set the third fastest time through the 20km test, and was one of only a handful of drivers with anything other than survival on his mind.
“I tried to make a good start because we are cleaning the road,” Loeb said at the stage end. “The split times look good so it’s okay - no problem at the moment. When I have a bigger lead I can take it a bit easier later on.”
Petter and Henning Solberg remained second and third. Both said they had driven the stage carefully and were not taking chances on the final day.
But while things were going perfectly for Loeb, many of the drivers following him had trouble seeing through the dust clouds hanging in the air. The situation was especially bad in the woodland areas, where there was no breeze to blow the dust away.
As a result Rally organisers decided to increase the gap between each starting car from 2min to 3min from the next stage.
Chris Atkinson took the stage win - his first in the Subaru Impreza WRC2008. The Australian, who returned today as a Superally entrant, was way down the overall order and had little to lose from exploring the limits of his new car.
The only position change in the top ten occurred at the bottom end where Toni Gardemeister moved ahead of Conrad Rautenbach into ninth.