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Sebastien Loeb and Daniel Elena have started the year in typically dominant fashion, leading Rally Ireland, round 1 of this year's World Rally Championship, at the end of Leg 1.  Loeb's Citroen team mate, Dani Sordo, finished the day in second place.

Whilst starting as car one on the road, it wasn't Loeb who held the early lead.  Ford driver, Jari-Matti Latvala, led the field after SS1 before two punctures caused his early retirement from the leg.  The lead was then handed to Estonian driver , Urmo Aava, who was driving a Focus for the first time.  He was also forced to retire later in the day after he spun off the road and into a water-filled ditch.

Mikko Hirvonen is waving the Ford flag at the pointy end, finishing the day in third, but it wasn't without probems.
“I’m trying to take the fight to Sordo but I stalled the engine at a junction on this one and that cost me some time. I’ll keep on moving,” he said.

Chris Atkinson, in his first drive for the Citroen Junior Team,  ended the day with his C4 WRC looking battered. The car had left-hand front corner damage, a broken front bumper, a left-hand rear puncture and signs of a heavy impact on the co-driver’s door.

“About a couple of kilometres before the finish we aquaplaned, spun and hit a pole of the outside of the corner,” Atkinson explained. “We should be able to carry on but Stephane [Prevot, co-driver] has a sore shoulder, so we’ll have to see.”

Atkinson finished the day in seventh position, behind his Junior Team team mates, Conrad Rautenbach (5th) and Sebastien Ogier (6th).

The last two stages of the day, SS7 and SS8, were cancelled due to heavy flooding on the roads.  Both stages were due to be run in darkness but, after a day of consistent rain, organisers were forced to cancel them on safety grounds.

Loeb takes a 44 second lead into Leg 2.

Rally Ireland results at end of Leg 1

1. Sebastien Loeb, Citroen, 1:09:35.2
2. Dani Sordo, Citroen, 1:10:19.6
3. Mikko Hirvonen, Ford, 1:10:40.0
4. Henning Solberg, Ford, 1:12:44.6
5. Conrad Rautenbach, Citroen, 1:13:53.5
6. Sebastien Ogier, Citroen, 1:13:58.5
7. Chris Atkinson, Citroen, 1:14:26.4
8. Matthew Wilson, Ford, 1:14:31.2
9. Gareth McHale, Ford, 1:14:40.3
10. Eamonn Boland, Subaru , 1:15:29.7

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