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Solberg clinches victory in Greece

LAMIA, Greece -- World champion Petter Solberg won the Acropolis rally on Sunday as the Norwegian posted his second victory of 2004, helping him climb to second in the overall standings.

Citroen's Sebastien Loeb was second, 18.4 seconds back, after a storming final-day that saw the Frenchman take four of the day's six special stages, with Finn Harri Rovanpera third in a Peugeot 307.

Loeb retains the leads in the world championship with Citroen taking over from Ford in the race for the constructors' title.

Solberg was in a class of his own during the first two days of the three-day event, with five stage wins in a row helping him to build up a lead of more than a minute towards the end of the second leg.

Brake failure on Saturday and an overnight 30-second penalty for missing mud flaps on his Subaru cut his advantage by half on the final day but Solberg paced himself carefully over the last six stages.

Ford's young Belgian Francois Duval backed off towards the end, finishing eighth in the final special stage to take fourth place.

Fifth went to non-works driver Daniel Carlsson behind the wheel of a Peugeot 206 WRC.

France's Gilles Panizzi and Spain's Carlos Sainz bagged some manufacturer points despite suffering time-consuming problems.

Panizzi, in his Mitsubishi, finished almost 20 minutes down after running into engine trouble on the final loop of three stages, while Sainz in his Citroen lost the bulk of his 42-minute deficit on Friday.

Markko Martin and Marcus Gronholm, lying third and fourth in the title race, were out of luck in this sixth leg of the season, both drivers being forced to retire.

Martin got as far as Friday's third special when he crashed his Ford Focus while former champion Gronholm limped out on Saturday after his Peugeot hit a rock.

"We've made it - it was a fantastic race," said a relieved Solberg who had to overcome brake failure in the closing stages on the middle day.

He was helped not only by the retirement of two of his main rivals but also by the unseasonal wet weather which suited his Pirelli-shod Subaru.

Loeb ensured he stayed at the head of the championship standings by securing second after a fierce tussle with Rovanpera.

"Solberg was unbeatable so to finish second was the aim today, it's useful in terms of the driver's title." said the Frenchman.

"It was very tight with Harri (Rovanpera). I gave everything."

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