Norwegian driver Petter Solberg has the lead after the opening day of the three-day Rally Australia. He steered his Subaru through the first 11 of the 26 stages in 1:14:58.

That is 46.6 seconds faster that Belgium's Francois Duval in a Citroen, and 48 seconds better than third-placed Colin McRae of Britain in a Skoda.

The day's action was marred by two crashes. The worst involved Swedish driver Daniel Carlsson. His Peugeot slid off the road, slammed into trees and burst into flames. He was taken to the hospital, but neither he nor his co-driver Mattias Anderson was injured.

Later Friday, Frenchman Sebastien Loeb - who has already clinched the season's championship - hit a tree in his Citroen, so he is out of the Australian Rally. Neither he nor his co-driver Daniel Elana was hurt.

Some information for this report provided by AFP, AP and Reuters.