Pouring Rain Slows Rally World Champion

Rally Ireland is well and truly underway in the North West today as the first of an expected 250,000 spectators braved pouring rain and winds, and freezing temperatures over the rest of the weekend, to view the three-day spectacle.

The rally officially started in Enniskillen yesterday with the last stage to hit Donegal Town on Sunday afternoon.

The crowds are not being put-off though by a controversial €25 euro charge to view the final stage in Donegal town.

The charge has been defended by a local political representative, Councillor Johnathon Kennedy, who also added that the fee is just an option for two small areas in the town.

Meanwhile, as rain poured down this morning, five-times world rally champion Sebastien Loeb began the defence of his title at Rally Ireland poorly and initially had fallen behind, with atrocious conditions forcing him into third place in the first stages, which began last night in Co Fermanagh.

However, he quickly recovered and is now back today leading the field.

The ceremonial opening in Enniskillen on Thursday was followed by the start of competitive action in Glenboy, Co Leitrim early in the darkness this morning.

Loeb, is aiming for a sixth successive title, and will again be the man to beat.

His main rivals will be his Citroen team-mate Daniel Sordo and Ford duo Mikko Hirvonen and Jari-Matti Latvala.

Ford are the sole remaining major rival to the Citroen team after the withdrawals of Japanese manufacturers Subaru and Suzuki because of the current world financial crisis.

Other changes to this year's championship include the staging of the opener in Ireland, as opposed to Monte Carlo, which has been the traditional curtain-raiser since 1973.


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