Citroen Junior Team's Sebastien Ogier has taken the lead on Repco Rally Australia this evening, the tenth round in the 2009 World Rally Championship.
Ogier was quickest on both runs through the short 2.55 kilometre Tweed super special - 0.8 seconds up on Henning Solberg on the first run and 2.3 seconds up on Sebastien Loeb on the second.
With all the runners on gravel tyres, the tarmac super special course was particularly tricky and slippery, but Ogier was fearless and grabbed the initiative. He will now take a 3.5 second lead into the start of the event 'proper' on Friday.
Henning Solberg finished up second overall in his Stobart Ford Focus, having backed up his second quickest time in SS1 with a third in SS2.
"I really enjoy the fast rallies and Rally Australia has some of the best stages I've seen in the championship so far this season," said Henning. "I'm looking forward to the rally as I've got good road position tomorrow. But as there's a chance of rain I need to make the most of the dry conditions in the morning when the guys in front of me are sweeping the road."
Meanwhile Loeb is third overall, followed by his Citroen team-mate Dani Sordo, who set the pace in the shakedown this morning and then BP Ford Abu Dhabi's Jari-Matti Latvala.
"It was very slippery on the first pass but I had a clean run on both stages. I was nervous before the start, but now that I have driven these two stages it will be easier going onto the gravel roads in the morning," said Latvala.
Current championship leader, Mikko Hirvonen lies sixth, with fellow Ford men Matthew Wilson and Federico Villagra seventh and eighth.
"It was a difficult start," Hirvonen admitted. "I didn't feel so confident tackling an asphalt stage on gravel tyres, but that will all change once we move onto the more traditional gravel roads in the morning. I will have no problems at all sleeping tonight!"
Khalid Al-Qassimi and Conrad Rautenbach round out the top ten, the latter 1.4 seconds up on Armindo Araujo, who leads the P-WRC category in his Mitsubishi Lancer Evo.
The action now continues on Friday, with SS3 - Kyogle 1 - beginning at 07.38 hours local time. Friday's action includes 13 stages in total and around 100 competitive kilometres. Leg 1 concludes as it started, with a third and fourth run through the Tweed SSS, scheduled to begin respectively at 18.30 and 18.45 hours local time.