Rallying: Martin leads as Gronholm's power fades

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The Independent Online

Markko Martin led the Swedish Rally by 23.3sec after yesterday's opening five speed tests in his quest to become the race's first non-Nordic champion.

The Estonian, a Ford Focus driver, clocked the fastest times on two of the longest stages in western Sweden. "Now I'm in front, all I can do is make sure I do the best job I can to stay there," Martin said.

Sébastien Loeb, of France, who won the championship series opener in Monte Carlo, was second in a Citroën Xsara with the world champion, Petter Solberg, of Norway, third in a Subaru, 26.9sec behind.

Swedish and Finnish drivers have dominated the Swedish rally, first held in 1950, but Martin took the lead on the third test after Marcus Gronholm's Peugeot suffered a power steering failure and he dropped to seventh overall.