Sebastien Ogier leads the Wales Rally GB following the reduced opening loop this morning after what can only be described as a brilliant performance on his first outing in a WRC car.
With SS1 cancelled due to safety concerns, drivers had to wait until Sweet Lamb 1 to begin the event and Ogier made the most of his more favourable position on the road to grab the early lead. Indeed despite treacherous conditions the Frenchman was 5.1 seconds up on Francois Duval, who was 'best of the rest'.
The newly crowned Junior World Rally champion then posted the fifth fastest time in SS3, the 18.28 kilometre-run through Myherin and thus headed into the remote service zone with a 2.3 second cushion over Mads Ostberg.
"For sure, it's a dream start to be leading the rally now," Ogier admitted. "I had a good feeling with this car from the first kilometre I drove it, so that's great, but there is a long way to go."
Mads Ostberg meanwhile was also delighted to be running so high up in his Adapta WRT-run Impreza WRC: "We've been very lucky, because our pre-event test for this event was in full snow! We've had problems with the differential on this car all season, but we seem to be getting there now," said Mads, who was second quickest in both SS2 and SS3.
Jari-Matti Latvala is third for Ford, having hauled himself up from ninth with the quickest time through the reduced 18.28km Myherin 1 test.
"I couldn't see where the slippery parts were in Sweet Lamb but started to gain confidence in Myherin, although I had two close escapes on ice near the finish," Jari reflected. "The tyres are working well on the gravel, which they are designed for, but it's hard to stop the car in the ice and snow.
"It's a shame the stages have been shortened because they are great roads but it's the right decision. I would be happy on these roads with winter tyres, but not with this rubber."
Further down the order, P-G Andersson is fourth in his Suzuki SX4 WRC car, 2.8 seconds off P3 and 1.4 seconds up on Citroen's Sebastien Loeb, who rounds out the top five.