Citroen's Sebastien Loeb led the way on Thursday morning in the shakedown for the Neste Oil Rally Finland, the ninth round in the 2009 World Rally Championship.

Loeb completed the 3.76 kilometre test stage in Laajavuori, 6 kilometres from the service area, in 2 minutes 2.2 seconds, 0.4 seconds up on Petter Solberg, who was 'best of the rest' in his privately entered Citroen Xsara WRC.

Loeb set his fastest effort on his fourth and final run through the test: "I think I have to fight again for the win here because we lost our lead in the [drivers' championship on the] last rallies due to some problems," said the Frenchman. "Now we are one point behind and we have to be really concentrated.

"I remember last year in Finland we had a big battle with Mikko [Hirvonen] and maybe it can be the same again this year.

"To fight for the win here though is not easy. You have to have a good feeling with the car and you have to be completely confident in the pace-notes and everything. We will see. I hope to be able to fight for the victory."

Dani Sordo meanwhile was third, 1.1 seconds off his team-mate, followed by Adapta Subaru's Mads Ostberg and then Ford's Mikko Hirvonen and Henning Solberg, who were joint fifth fastest.

Further down the order, Matthew Wilson was seventh, only 0.2 seconds off Hirvonen and Henning, while Jari-Matti Latvala, Evgeny Novikov and Jari Ketomaa rounded out the top ten.

The Rally Finland now gets underway later on today with SS1, the short 2.06 kilometre Killeri super special, starting at 20.00 hours.

The action then begins 'proper' on Friday with nine stages on the bill, totalling around 130 competitive kilometres. SS2, the 22.29 kilometre run through Jukojarvi 1, begins at 07.38 hours [all times local].

Leading shakedown times:

1. Sebastien Loeb Citroen Total WRT C4 WRC 2mins 02.2secs M
2. Petter Solberg PS WRT Citroen Xsara WRC 2mins 02.6secs A8
3. Dani Sordo Citroen Total WRT C4 WRC 2mins 03.3secs M
4. Mads Ostberg Adapta Subaru Impreza WRC2008 2mins 03.4secs A8
5. Mikko Hirvonen BP Ford Abu Dhabi Focus RS WRC 2mins 03.7secs M
= Henning Solberg Stobart VK Ford Focus WRC 2mins 03.7secs MT
7. Matthew Wilson Stobart VK Ford Focus WRC 2mins 03.9secs MT
8. Jari-Matti Latvala BP Ford Abu Dhabi Focus RS WRC 2mins 04.1secs M
9. Evgeny Novikov Citroen Junior Team C4 WRC 2mins 04.5secs MT
10. Jari Ketomaa Ketomaa WRT Subaru Impreza WRC 2mins 05.2secs A8
11. Sebastien Ogier Citroen Junior Team C4 WRC 2mins 05.7secs MT
12. Matti Rantanen Munch's Ford Focus WRC 2mins 06.0secs MT
13. Federico Villagra Munch's Ford Focus WRC 2mins 06.4secs MT
14. Conrad Rautenbach Citroen Junior Team C4 WRC 2mins 07.2secs A8
15. Khalid Al Qassimi BP Ford Abu Dhabi Focus RS WRC 2mins 08.1secs A8

M - denotes Manufacturer entry.
MT - denotes Manufacturer Team entry.