Francois Duval enjoyed a solid start to his return to the World Rally Championship with the quickest time in shakedown for Rallye Deutschland.

The Belgian ace, who comes into the Stobart VK M-Sport team for the tarmac event, posted a quickest time of 3min 35.5secs on his third run through the 5.8km stage near the Trier service park which saw him end up six-tenths of a second clear of Citroen's Dani Sordo.

That was despite the fact that Duval hasn't been seen in action in the WRC since Monte Carlo, a factor he admits may make it difficult to repeat the runner-up results enjoyed on the German stages in the past.

"I have been out for seven months, which is quite a long time," he said. "I only had one day of testing on Saturday and that was quite okay. The car is doing well but it is difficult to get back into the car and be competitive.

"This weekend, it is a bad situation for me as I am starting eleventh. There is a lot of mud in every corner when it rains tomorrow, so it will be difficult."

Behind Sordo, defending champion Sebastien Loeb - who is unbeaten in the event since it joined the WRC - was third, just over a second behind Duval's benchmark with the Frenchman electing to run through the shakedown stage just three times. Loeb's main rival Mikko Hirvonen finished fourth, with his quickest time coming on his final run.

Henning Solberg was fifth quickest ahead of Gigi Galli as Ford locked out four of the top six places on the timesheets, with Petter Solberg seventh ahead of the tarmac debut of the new Impreza WRC 2008.

Privateer Citroen driver Urmo Aava, Jari-Matti Latvala and young Ford man Andreas Mikkelsen completed the top ten.

Shakedown times:

1. Francois Duval Stobart VK Ford Focus WRC 07 3mins 35.5secs MT
2. Daniel Sordo Citroen Total WRT C4 WRC 3mins 36.1secs M
3. Sebastien Loeb Citroen Total WRT C4 WRC 3mins 36.6secs M
4. Mikko Hirvonen BP Ford Abu Dhabi Focus RS WRC 07 3mins 36.9secs M
5. Henning Solberg Stobart VK Ford Focus WRC 07 3mins 37.2secs A8
6. Gigi Galli Stobart VK Ford Focus WRC 07 3mins 38.2secs MT
7. Petter Solberg Subaru WRT Impreza WRC 2008 3mins 38.8secs M
8. Urmo Aava PH Sport-Citroen C4 WRC 3mins 39.8secs A8
9. Jari-Matti Latvala BP Ford Abu Dhabi Focus RS WRC 07 3mins 39.9secs M
10. Andreas Mikkelsen Ramsport Ford Focus RS WRC 06 3mins 40.3secs A8
11. Chris Atkinson Subaru WRT Impreza WRC 2008 3mins 41.1secs M
12. Conrad Rautenbach PH Sport-Citroen C4 WRC 3mins 43.7secs A8
13. Toni Gardemeister Suzuki WRT SX4 WRC 3mins 44.0secs M
14. Mark van Eldik Subaru Impreza WRC 07 3mins 44.4secs A8
15. Matthew Wilson Stobart VK Ford Focus WRC 07 3mins 45.2secs A8


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