Dani Sordo set the pace in Thursday's shakedown for Repco Rally Australia ahead of Citroen team-mates Sebastien Loeb and Sebastien Ogier.

After four runs over the 3.29 km stage at Dunloe Park, Pottsville, competitors completed the stage up to seven times.

Sordo set a time of 1 minute 34.3 seconds to be fastest by 0.5 seconds. Even Sordo's second fastest time of 1m 34.5s was faster than his team-mate and defending world champion Sebastien Loeb, who put in a time of 1m 34.8s.

"The first of my four runs was essentially intended to sweep aside the thick top-coating of dust which covered the stage early on," Sordo explained. "We tried a number of settings because this rally's stages are particularly varied. Some are very twisty, while others are significantly faster. They remind me very much of New Zealand. I think I will feel at home here."

"The morning went well for us and we were able to try a number of settings," Loeb added. "We face the prospect of covering stages with very different profiles on the same loop, so it was a case of trying to find the best compromise."

In dry and dusty conditions, Citroen Junior Team driver Sebastien Ogier completed a Citroen lock-out, with a time of 1m 35.2s, 0.9 seconds off Sordo.

"This morning's stage wasn't all that selective, but I felt comfortable with my car," Ogier said. "We were able to validate a set-up for fast conditions, but at the same time we tried to bear in mind that we will also come across some fairly twisty roads in the course of the first leg."

Championship leader Mikko Hirvonen led home BP Ford Abu Dhabi World Rally team-mate Jari-Matti Latvala while the lone Munchi's Ford World Rally Team's Federico Villagra managed to equal Latvala's time on his sixth run.

"I am braking too early for the corners - some places the grip is good but other places not so much," Latvala noted. "The car is good."

Stobart VK M-Sport Ford driver Henning Solberg was the only driver to make seven runs, his Ford setting seventh fastest time of 1m 35.9s on his fifth and sixth attempts: "The stage is good, but dusty," noted Henning. "The car is going well."

Stobart team-mate Matthew Wilson, Khalid Al Qassimi and Citroen Junior Team's Conrad Rautenbach round out the top ten.

"We had an ignition problem on the first run through the stage," Wilson reflected. "The boys fixed and it was a coil pack. The stage is dusty and I am braking too early but otherwise all is okay."

"I had a good feeling with my car with all the different set-ups I tried," Rautenbach added. "I think I could have gone a little faster, but it was a bit early to start pushing too hard!"

Meanwhile Australia's leading driver Neal Bates put in a stunning time to be placed eleventh in his Group N/Production WRC Toyota Corolla S2000 and also the highest placed non-turbocharged car.

Repco Rally Australia now starts tonight with the first two stages on tarmac at Murwillumbah before hitting the gravel stages for three full days on Friday, Saturday and Sunday.

Leading shakedown times:

1. Dani Sordo Citroen Total WRT C4 WRC 1mins 34.3secs M
2. Sebastien Loeb Citroen Total WRT C4 WRC 1mins 34.8secs M
3. Sebastien Ogier Citroen Junior Team C4 WRC 1mins 35.2secs MT
4. Mikko Hirvonen BP Ford Abu Dhabi Focus RS WRC 1mins 35.5secs M
5. Jari-Matti Latvala BP Ford Abu Dhabi Focus RS WRC 1mins 35.7secs M
= Federico Villagra Munch's Ford Focus WRC 1mins 35.7secs MT
7. Henning Solberg Stobart VK Ford Focus WRC 1mins 35.9secs MT
8. Matthew Wilson Stobart VK Ford Focus WRC 1mins 37.3secs MT
9. Khalid Al Qassimi BP Ford Abu Dhabi Focus RS WRC 1mins 38.6secs A8
10. Conrad Rautenbach Citroen Junior Team C4 WRC 1mins 40.3secs A8
11. Neal Bates Toyota Corolla S2000 1mins 43.0secs P

M - denotes Manufacturer entry.
MT - denotes Manufacturer Team entry.
P - denotes Production WRC entry.

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