WRC legend Sebastien Loeb grabs the Rally of Italy initiative after day one

Last Updated: 18/10/12 7:20pm

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Sebastien Loeb: On top after day one of the Rally Italy

Sebastien Loeb: On top after day one of the Rally Italy

Sky Bet

The mercurial Sebastien Loeb grabbed the initiative after the opening day of the Rally Italy after capitalising on Jari-Matti Latvala's gamble.

Latvala opted to start first after setting the pace in qualifying, but admitted it was a risk as he would effectively act as roadsweeper for those following given the loose surface gravel on the initial Sardinia stage.

The Finn's decision backfired disasterously as he finished just over 15 seconds down in his Fiesta RS on world champion Loeb after the 28.14km Terranova stage.

Frenchman Loeb had wrapped up his ninth drivers' title last time out in France and the Citroen driver held on to a 1.1second advantage over DS3 team-mate Mikko Hirvonen.

Their nearest challenger was that of Petter Solberg in his works Fiesta, the Norwegian 13.9secs adrift while Thierry Neuville, in his DS3 for the Citroen Junior team, is a solid fourth at 26.2secs adrift, followed by Mads Ostberg in his Adapta Fiesta, and Latvala a disappointing 42 seconds off the pace.

Ostberg had been fastest through the opening three timing splits of the first stage, but hit a rock and bent the steering arm, wrecking his chances of a stage win.

M-Sport Fiesta duo Evgeny Novikov and Ott Tanak lie seventh and ninth, sandwiching Chris Atkinson in his works Mini but 89 seconds down, with Martin Prokop in his Fiesta completing the top 10 almost two minutes off the pace.

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