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Ford's Marcus Gronholm holds a handy 9.3 second lead after the first group of four stages of Rally Japan, having won three of the morning's stages.

Sebastien Loeb holds second place, followed by Ford's Mikko Hirvonen and Subaru's Australian driver, Chris Atkinson. Manfred Stohl is fifth in a Peugeot 307.

Subaru lead driver, Petter Solberg, dropped over two minutes on the fourth stage with what looks like a serious engine problem. Solberg refused to comment on the problem at the end of the stage, where journalists were waiting for an explanation.

Australian Rally Championship star, Dean Herridge, is lying in 19th place, and eighth in Group N, after the first three stages.

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