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Loeb in command in Cyprus Rally


World champion Sebastien Loeb leads after day one of the mixed-surface Cyprus Rally, round three of the 2009 WRC.

Guess who’s leading the Cyprus Rally after the first day in which cars ran on gravel tyres on tarmac roads?

Sebastien Loeb has continued his domination of the 2009 World Rally Championship (WRC), driving his Citroen C4 WRC to the overnight lead as the drivers prepare for two days of gravel rallying.

The Cyprus Rally is the first mixed surface round in the WRC since 1996, and Loeb leads it from his Citroen teammate Dani Sordo and Ford Focus RS drivers, Mikko Hirvonen and Jari-Matti Latvala.

Yesterday, the cars tackled two identical loops of three special stages north of Limassol on extremely winding roads where average speeds were around 80km/h.

Loeb has a 42-second lead over Sordo, with Hirvonen another 18 seconds further back.

Former world champion Petter Solberg runs fifth in his privateer 2006 model Citroen Xsara WRC, followed by Sebastien Ogier in a Citroen C4.

Hirvonen said the morning stages had been hard “because the grip level changed all the time.

"Although the roads were dry, the surface was dusty and they were slippery and unpredictable and I wasn't totally confident. My tyres felt they were losing their edge on the last stage so I drove more cautiously, but actually they were fine at the finish. I just wasn't used to the feeling of gravel tyres on asphalt."

In the afternoon, he said his driving was better. “I got used to the conditions and the tyres but it was harder to find a rhythm on such twisty roads than I thought it would be.”

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