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The battle for the World Rally Championship title is on following the opening three stages of Wales Rally GB this afternoon.

Sebastien Loeb heads title rival Mikko Hirvonen by 0.7s heading into Friday’s eight stages. Loeb holds an eight-point lead over Hirvonen in the title standings. Hirvonen must win the event to stand any chance of claiming his first world crown, should Loeb not falter.

“I’m on it now,” said Ford driver Hirvonen at the opening ceremony in in Conwy Quay this evening, which followed the first three stages. “Now we’ve started I wish we could just carry right on. The momentum is running with me. I was taking risks in that stage but I have nothing else I can do. I am happy with my car but I might play with the clicks to get more traction.”

Loeb, who will run first on the road on day two for Citroen, said: “Sometimes when you have rain and it dries a little it can be better to be first on the road - it means you can make some mud for the cars behind but I don’t know if it will be like this tomorrow. I think it will be quite equal, which is a good way to have the fight with Mikko.”

Jari-Matti Latvala is third overall in the second factory Fiesta having led after the opening two runs over the all-asphalt Great Orme test. Petter Solberg is fourth despite damaging a rear suspension link on his privateer Citroen striking a wall on the first run through Great Orme.

Kris Meeke is the leading MINI driver in fifth position, one place ahead of team-mate Dani Sordo. Mads Ostberg is seventh despite reporting a problem with his Fiesta’s turbo. Ott Tanak is a strong eighth on his World Rally Car debut.

Jarkko Nikara heads the Production Car World Rally Championship standings overnight.
Leading positions after SS3:  Pos  Driver              Team/Car         Time/Gap  1.  Sebastien Loeb      Citroen          14m38.0s  2.  Mikko Hirvonen      Ford               + 0.7s  3.  Jari-Matti Latvala  Ford               + 3.1s  4.  Petter Solberg      Solberg Citroen   + 11.9s  5.  Kris Meeke          Mini              + 18.7s  6.  Dani Sordo          Mini              + 27.3s  7.  Mads Ostberg        Stobart Ford      + 27.8s  8.  Ott Tanak           Stobart Ford      + 30.6s  9.  Matthew Wilson      Stobart Ford      + 36.5s 10.  Henning Solberg     Stobart Ford      + 37.8s

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