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Petter Solberg moved into an early lead of the 2010 Neste Oil Rally Finland after setting the fastest time on Thursday evening’s opening stage.

The Citroen C4 WRC driver completed the short Laajavuori sprint stage in 2min 33.2sec, one second quicker than his nearest rival, Ford team-leader Mikko Hirvonen.

At the finish control, Solberg claimed to have taken a gentle approach to the stage. “I was a bit chicken in there,” he said. “The time felt good but the proper stuff starts tomorrow so I was a bit careful.”

Hirvonen, who won Rally Finland last year, also claimed to have more speed in reserve. “It was quite a steady start, and I made a few small mistakes, but I think we’re in the game now. We’ll see for sure tomorrow morning,” said the Finn.

Sebastien Loeb and Jari-Matti Latvala will start Friday’s competition tied in third place after both completing in 2min 24.8sec - 1.6sec slower than Solberg. Sebastien Ogier rounded off the top five times, on his first competitive outing driving for the Citroen Total team.

Neste Oil Rally Finland resumes on Friday morning, with the first stage - the 12.75km Urria - getting underway at 0742hrs.

Results after stage 1

1.  Petter Solberg      Citroen  2m33.2s
2.  Mikko Hirvonen      Ford      + 1.0s
3.  Sebastien Loeb      Citroen   + 1.6s
4.  Jari-Matti Latvala  Ford      + 1.6s
5.  Sebastien Ogier     Citroen   + 3.2s
6.  Henning Solberg     Ford      + 3.2s
7.  Dani Sordo          Citroen   + 3.8s
8.  Matthew Wilson      Ford      + 5.4s
9.  Mads Ostberg        Subaru    + 5.4s
10.  Kimi Raikkonen      Citroen   + 6.4s
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