Loeb snares opening day lead in Rally NZ
Eight-time world champion Sebastien Loeb took a narrow lead after day one of the Rally New Zealand on Friday, winning five of the eight opening stages.
The Frenchman, who won the event in 2005 and 2008, was just four seconds ahead of Citroen teammate Mikko Hirvonen of Finland, with Russian Evgeny Novikov's Ford one minute 31 seconds off the pace in third.
Finn Jari-Matti Latvala, who had the pick of starting positions after qualifying fastest Thursday, crashed out of contention after ploughing into a fence on the seventh stage and needed a push from spectators to resume racing.
The mistake left Latvala in ninth place, trailing Loeb by four minutes 56.1 seconds and effectively ending the Ford Fiesta driver's chances of repeating his 2010 victory in the New Zealand rally.
Loeb entered round seven of the World Rally Championship 30 points ahead of his nearest rival Hirvonen and is favourite to both win the Rally New Zealand and defend his world crown.