Citroen team leader Sebastien Loeb put in an impressive performance on Monday when he joined the Red Bull Racing F1 team for the opening day of its winter test programme.

Intended as a 'thank-you' by mutual sponsor Red Bull for winning the WRC drivers' title for a record fifth time in succession, Loeb completed 82 laps in total, his best a 1 minute 22.503 seconds, which left him eighth overall on the unofficial timesheets - just two tenths slower than Robert Kubica and quicker than the likes of Nelson Piquet Jr, Adrian Sutil and Christian Klein.

Having had a brief shakedown at Silverstone last week, the Frenchman had a better idea of what to expect when he took to the track at the Circuit de Catalunya and he ended up providing useful feedback from his first serious outing in an F1 car.

Indeed after spending most of the morning settling in to the unfamiliar surroundings of the Spanish Grand Prix venue and finding a good balance on the Renault-powered RB4, Loeb's confidence convinced the team to put him to more serious use in the afternoon.

With the F1 rules switching away from the grooved rubber that has been mandatory for the past decade, Loeb was tasked with evaluating the new Bridgestone slick tyres and he provided the team with 'valuable data' that it will take into the rest of the test.

Speaking following his 'prize drive', the WRC ace admitted that he had been taken aback by the potential of the Red Bull machine.

"I don't think I'd like to take this much horsepower into the forests!" he quipped, "It was a great experience though and I had fun, although I have to say that driving one of these cars is tougher physically than driving my rally car.

"Towards the end of the day, I began to get a good feel for the car and enjoyed the sensation of it moving around on the track - and I have to say that the level of grip in the high speed corners is very impressive."

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