Citroen drivers on top of Rally NZ after day one

11:32, Jun 22 2012
Rally NZ 2012
Maciej Oleksowicz, driving a Ford Fiesta S2000 at the Brother Rally New Zealand.
Rally NZ 2012
Valeriy Gorban of Ukraine, driving a Mitsubishi Lancer Evo IX at the Brother Rally New Zealand.
Rally NZ 2012
Ott Tänak of Estonia, driving a Ford Fiesta RS at the Brother Rally New Zealand.
Rally NZ 2012
Alister McRae of Britain, driving a Proton Satria Neo S2000 at the Brother Rally New Zealand.
Rally NZ 2012
Peter Solberg of Norway, driving a Ford Fiesta RS at the Brother Rally New Zealand.
Rally NZ 2012
Thierry Neuville of Belgium, driving a Citroen DS3 at the Brother Rally New Zealand.
Rally NZ 2012
Evgeny Novikov of Russia, driving a Ford Fiesta RS at the Brother Rally New Zealand.
Rally NZ 2012
Manfred Stohl of Austria, driving a Ford Fiesta RS at the Brother Rally New Zealand.
Rally NZ 2012
Ken Block of the US, driving a Ford Fiesta RS at the Brother Rally New Zealand.
Rally NZ 2012
Citroen driver Mikko Hirvonen, who has an early lead, at a service stage during the Brother Rally New Zealand.
Rally NZ 2012
Ramona Karlsson and co-driver Miriam Walfridsson compete in their Mitsubishi Lancer Evo X during Day Two of the Rally New Zealand.
Rally NZ 2012
Ramona Karlsson with her Mitsubishi Lancer Evo X at the Whangarei Service Station during Day Two of Rally New Zealand.
Rally NZ 2012
Sebastien Loeb and co-driver Daniel Elena compete in their Citroen DS3 WRC during Day Two of Rally New Zealand.
Rally NZ 2012
Mikko Hirvonen and co-driver Jarmo Lehtinen compete in their Citroen DS3 WRC during Day Two of Rally New Zealand.
Rally NZ 2012
Sebastien Loeb and co-driver Daniel Elena celebrate their world rally championship victory during in Auckland Domain.
Rally NZ 2012
Sebastien Loeb and co-driver Daniel Elena check out their winning trophy during day three of Rally New Zealand.
Rally NZ 2012
Sebastien Loeb and co-driver Daniel Elena compete in their Citroen DS3 WRC during day three of Rally New Zealand.
Rally NZ 2012
Petter Solberg sprays the champagne as he finished third during day three of Rally New Zealand.

Citroen is firmly in charge of Rally New Zealand, its drivers Sebastien Loeb and Mikko Hirvonen a minute and a half ahead of the opposition at the end of the first day.

France's reigning champion Loeb, who leads the current series, is just four seconds ahead of his Finnish team-mate, who had been in front most of the day.

Their only real challenge came from Ford's Jari-Matti Latvala, but the Finn was 25 seconds behind after six stages and then destroyed his chances in the next stage by getting tangled in a fence. He dropped from third to ninth after losing four minutes in the incident.

To compound the Ford team's woes, Petter Solberg chose the wrong type of tyre in the morning and was only seventh after four stages. He improved in the afternoon to end the day in fourth, close behind Russian Evgeny Novikov in an independent Ford.

Kiwi Hayden Paddon survived severe gearbox problems in his Skoda - no second gear - to lead the S2000 class at the end of the day, while Masterton driver Richard Mason was the best of the New Zealand championship drivers in his Subaru.

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Mikko Hirvonen
CLOSE CALL: Mikko Hirvonen is second behind team-mate Sebastian Loeb after day one of the Rally of New Zealand.

Fairfax Media