Sebastien Loeb showed once again why he is the master on the Rallye Deutschland by setting the pace in all six stages on Friday and finishing the opening leg with a 19.9 second lead.
Loeb began the tenth round in the championship, an event he has won every year since it joined the WRC schedule back in 2002, perfectly by setting the pace in all three tests on the opening loop.
The Frenchman completed SS1 - the 21.22 km Ruwertal / Fell test in 11 minutes 31.6 seconds, 5.8 seconds up on Dani Sordo, who was 'best of the rest'. He then went quickest again in Grafschaft Veldenz to increase his early lead almost two-fold, before inching further in front in SS3, the 9.82 km run through Moselland. The four-time world rally champion thus returned to the first service in Trier with a 15.3 second lead.
In the afternoon Seb again set the standard, 2.2 seconds up on Francois Duval in SS4 and he headed into the final two stages with a 17.7 second lead.
While SS5 and SS6 were both disrupted - the former following Gigi Galli's crash and the latter due to safety concerns, which meant only three drivers' actually completed it at speed - Loeb maintained his dominance and ended the day with a clean sweep of stage wins.
"The conditions stayed dry all day. I immediately felt comfortable with my car and I was able to push hard from the outset,” said Loeb. “It's been a very positive day, but a gap of 19.9s isn't yet sufficient to start thinking in terms of controlling from in front.”
Hirvonen meanwhile finished the day second and he was right up there with Loeb in the final two stages, just 0.1 seconds slower in Grafschaft Veldenz 2 and 1.1 seconds adrift in Moselland 2.
As such he managed to overhaul Dani Sordo for P2, finishing proceedings in a 'Citroen sandwich', almost 20 seconds off his main championship rival and 5.7 seconds up on the #2 C4 WRC car.
"I've had a good feeling all day, especially this afternoon, and I'm having so much fun,” said Mikko. “The speed was there this morning but on the second loop things went even better. There's not much more room before I start taking big risks but I will try to keep the pressure on Loeb tomorrow."