Citroen drivers on top of Rally NZ after day one

BERNARD CARPINTER
Last updated 18:42 22/06/2012
Mikko Hirvonen
MARK TAYLOR/Fairfax NZ
CLOSE CALL: Mikko Hirvonen is second behind team-mate Sebastian Loeb after day one of the Rally of New Zealand.

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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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- Fairfax Media

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