Sebastien Loeb enjoyed the perfect start to Rally de Espana after topping the times in shakedown for the penultimate round of the World Rally Championship season.

Loeb, who goes into the weekend trailing Mikko Hirvonen by five points in the championship standings, set a time of 2min 36.4secs from four runs through the 4.32km Riudecanyes stage - which will run as SS13 and SS16 in the event proper, which gets underway tomorrow [Friday].

The Frenchman admitted that shakedown has only been of limited use to the team in terms of set-up after it elected to run softer compound tyres, but said the system checks on the car had been successful.

"Like most drivers we wanted to save our hard compound tyres for the rally, so we used our soft compound ones for Shakedown - even though they weren't the ideal choice," he said. "It was hard to gauge a feeling in the car, but we weren't trying to find a different set-up.

"If the weather stays good I'm not sure we'll use the soft tyres, so what we are doing today is not so important. We did a few runs and checked the differential settings a bit but mainly it was about getting the confidence that everything on the car works okay."

Citroen Junior Team driver Sebastien Ogier was second quickest ahead of Dani Sordo, while Petter Solberg was fourth as he prepares for his first outing in the C4 that will replace his ageing Xsara for the final rounds of the season.

Ford duo Hirvonen and Jari-Matti Latvala were fifth and sixth, with Evgeny Novikov, Federico Villagra, Matthew Wilson and Henning Solberg rounding out the top ten.

Shakedown times - Top 10:

1. Sebastien Loeb Citroen Total WRT C4 WRC 02mins 36.4secs M
2. Sebastien Ogier Citroen Junior Team C4 WRC 02mins 37.4ecs MT
3. Dani Sordo Citroen Total WRT C4 WRC 02mins 37.9secs M
4. Petter Solberg PS WRT Citroen C4 WRC 02mins 38.0secs A8
5. Mikko Hirvonen BP Ford Abu Dhabi Focus RS WRC 02mins 38.9secs M
6. Jari-Matti Latvala BP Ford Abu Dhabi Focus RS WRC 02mins 39.2secs M
7. Evgeny Novikov Citroen Junior Team C4 WRC 02mins 39.6ecs MT
8. Federico Villagra Munchi's Ford Focus RS WRC 02mins 39.7secs MT
9. Matthew Wilson Stobart VK Ford Focus WRC 02mins 39.8secs MT
10. Henning Solberg Stobart VK Ford Focus WRC 02mins 41.3secs MT


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