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Marcus Gronholm has ended the first day of the Rally of Japan with a 10.5 second lead, despite arch rival Sebastien Loeb winning both the Super Special Stages in Obihiro tonight.

The two drivers dominated the day, while third place is held by Ford' Mikko Hirvonen, over a minute off the leading pace.

Chris Atkinson is in sixth place after a difficult day that saw him lose 50 seconds in penalties after he was late out of the lunchtime service break. Team-mate Petter Solberg also suffered problems with the troublesome Subaru, dropping over two minutes with brake and differential problems on stage four.

Solberg is in eighth place, 14 seconds behind the number three Subaru of Toshi Arai, the Japanese driver having his first drive in a World Rally Car since 2002.

Western Australians Dean Herridge and Bill Hayes were 26th outright and 15th in Group N going into the final two Super Special Stages.

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