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