Sebastien Loeb began the latest round in the World Rally Championship perfectly on Thursday when he set the pace in the Rally RACC Catalunya-Costa Daurada shakedown.

Loeb completed the 2.3 kilometre stage between Riudecanyes and Vilanova d'Escornalbou - 21.80 kilometres northwest of the PortAventura service park, in 1 minute 11.5 seconds.

"The C4 feels great," Loeb told the events official website, "and it is good to have this stage so close to the service park so that we don't waste time going back and forth."

Dani Sordo and Francois Duval meanwhile were 'best of the rest' - joint second quickest, just 0.4 seconds slower than the Frenchman.

"I'm glad the shakedown is closer to the service park this time, although I found it a bit short," Sordo added. "I tried to push and my Citroen C4 WRC car worked well. I have high hopes of challenging for the win, but we need to do well from the very beginning."

Subaru duo Chris Atkinson and Petter Solberg were both 0.2 seconds further back and tied for P4, while Jari-Matti Latvala, who is competing under the Stobart banner this weekend, came in sixth, along with Urmo Aava.

Mads Ostberg, Matthew Wilson and Mikko Hirvonen completed the top ten.

The Rally Catalunya now continues later on today with the ceremonial start at 20.00 hours. The action then begins proper on Friday with six stages on the bill, totalling around 132 competitive kilometres. SS1, the 20.48 kilometre run through La Mussara 1, begins at 08.16 hours [all times local].

Leading shakedown times:

1. Sebastien Loeb Citroen Total WRT C4 WRC 1min 11.5secs M
2. Daniel Sordo Citroen Total WRT C4 WRC 1min 11.9secs M
= Francois Duval BP Ford Abu Dhabi Focus RS WRC 08 1min 11.9secs M
4. Chris Atkinson Subaru WRT Impreza WRC 2008 1min 12.1secs M
= Petter Solberg Subaru WRT Impreza WRC 2008 1min 12.1secs M
6. Jari-Matti Latvala Stobart VK Ford Focus WRC 07 1min 12.9secs MT
= Urmo Aava PH Sport-Citroen C4 WRC 1min 12.9secs A8
8. Mads Ostberg Adapta Subaru WRC S12b 1min 13.1secs A8
9. Matthew Wilson Stobart VK Ford Focus WRC 07 1min 13.2secs MT
10. Mikko Hirvonen BP Ford Abu Dhabi Focus RS WRC 08 1min 13.3secs M

Times courtesy of the official Rally RACC Catalunya-Costa Daurada website