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Loeb on top in tense rally battle


September 2, 2007, 11.30am. The battle for the lead in Rally New Zealand has turned into a real needle match, with Citroen’s Sebastien Loeb and Ford’s Marcus Gronholm trading the top spot on roads in the Raglan district of the western Waikato.

Loeb started the day with a 1.7-second lead, but Gronholm snatched it back on the morning’s first test, and went into SS13, Te Hutewai, one-tenth of a second ahead of the Frenchman.

Loeb won Te Hutewai and went into a half-second lead over Gronholm.

On the third test, the classic Whaanga Coast, Loeb extended his margin to 2.9 seconds.

Mikko Hirvonen, in the second works Ford, lies third.

In the battle to be first New Zealander, Richard Mason is closing the gap to fellow Subaru Impreza WRX STi driver and new NZ championship leader, Sam Murray.

After Whaanga Coast, Mason was 19 seconds ahead of the Palmerston North driver who had started the day with a 20-second margin.

Murray said last night that though he would be doing his best to be top Kiwi he wouldn’t risk wrecking his car to do so


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