Urmo Aava got off to a fabulous start on the rain-lashed Rally Ireland this morning and heads the pack following the opening loop.
Aava, who is making his debut with the Stobart Ford team this weekend and who revealed on Thursday that he currently only has the funds to do two WRC events, was 'Mr Consistent' - setting the second fastest time in all three tests.
Aava opted to use the winter tyre for the loop and that certainly paid dividends, especially on SS1. He now leads by 6.7 seconds.
“It is a dream come true for me and a great start to my first rally with Stobart. I didn't expect the conditions to be so bad,” he admitted. “There was so much water on the road I could hardly keep the car in a straight line.
“Our tyre choice was perfect though and the tyres were working well; better than I expected in these conditions. To be in number one position coming into the first service is a fantastic feeling and a new experience for me.”
Sebastien Loeb meanwhile heads the chasing pack and while he had a slow start in his Citroen C4 WRC and was only seventh fastest in SS1 - struggling with the standard slick tyre, in conditions he described as 'incredible', he was back on it in SS2 and SS3.
Indeed the Frenchman set the pace in both Cavan 1 and Aughnasheelan 1, first hauling himself up to second and then cutting Aava's lead from 22 seconds to just 6.7 seconds.
"It was much better in SS2 and SS3 but conditions were still extremely hard," said the five-time world champion. "On the first stage I did not want to take any chances, on the second and third stages we had much better grip but it is a long way to the finish."
Mikko Hirvonen rounds out the top three, albeit 24.2 seconds further back in his BP Ford Abu Dhabi WRT Focus RS WRC08. The Finn, who like Seb went for the slick tyre, was fourth fastest in SS1, and third in SS2 and SS3.