Peugeot Marcus Gronholm was in the lead after the seventh stage of the Australian Rally on Friday, but it was Citroën's young star Sébastien Loeb who blitzed the second loop of stages.

Peugeot Marcus Gronholm was in the lead after the seventh stage of the Australian Rally on Friday, but it was Citroën's young star Sébastien Loeb who blitzed the second loop of stages.


Loeb put in a devastating run through the longest stage of the rally, the 34.99km Stirling Long (SS6) to beat the field by a full eight seconds and steam past Subaru's Petter Solberg into second place overall.


The Frenchman was slightly surprised at his unexpected turn of pace, particularly as he'd previously described Australia as one of the most difficult and specialised events on the calendar.


Gronholm said he's taking things reasonably easily, having slightly damaged a front right-hand tyre: "I think we should be able to stay in front with not much problem. We're not pushing especially hard. And I think it should be the same tomorrow."


Solberg didn't even know that Loeb had passed him for second. "Am I third now?" he asked, grabbing a time sheet. He admitted to a mistake on the middle of the three stages, when he overshot a junction. "It was a really deceptive place, because the warning sign for the corner was in the wrong position. I had to go back, so I reckon I lost at least 10-15 seconds easily."


Richard Burns, in fourth, said he expected his team mate Gronholm to hold off the young chargers. "They're both excellent drivers, but I don't think Sebastien and Petter really have the experience to challenge Marcus. I'm quite happy with fourth, particularly given my road position".


Carlos Sainz is tied with Subaru's Tommi Makinen in fifth, but the Spaniard reckons there's more to come out of his Xsara. "The rally's gone neither badly nor well for us," he said. "I'm sure we can get a bit more performance. I'm certainly going to try!"


Immediately behind that battling duo is a not-at-all-happy Markko Martin. "The car is great, but I'm not making good use of it," the Ford Focus RS 03 driver said. "Our tyre choice is wrong, our pace notes are incorrect, and we're losing time on every corner. Maybe it's inexperience."


Peugeot's Harri Rovanpera also chose tyres that were too hard, but at least he solved his brake problems on SS7.

Original article from Car