Citroen number two driver, Dani Sordo has taken control on the Rally de Espana following the opening loop this morning, even though overnight rain made conditions tricky for all 70 starting crews.

Sordo was 1 second up on Mikko Hirvonen in the first test, the 20.48 kilometre-run through La Mussara, before going quickest again in SS2 and SS3 - 1.8 seconds quicker than his team-mate, Sebastien Loeb in Querol and again better than Seb in El Montmell.

Sordo thus returned to the mid-day halt with a 4.8 second cushion and he was understandably happy with his performance on home soil: "It was pretty difficult morning for everyone because the first stage was still damp in places," Sordo reflected. "I am pleased with my pacenotes though and with the performance of my C4 WRC.

"We've found a good pace, but we didn't push too hard. I think the going will be easier, and more consistent, this afternoon."

Loeb meanwhile was third in the opening test, but 'passed' Hirvonen in SS2 and finished the loop 14.3 seconds up on his arch rival: "There is no way I'm going to settle for finishing behind Mikko!" Loeb stated.

"Dani has got off to a great start and we have succeeded in tucking in just behind him, with Hirvonen a little further back. This morning's run proved quite tricky because we had to cope with damp conditions on hard tyres. I didn't feel 100 per cent confident in my car."

Hirvonen, for his part, wasn't too disappointed to end the loop 'best of the rest' after the two works Citroens, especially as Loeb and Sordo are very much the favourites this weekend in Catalunya.

"This is a better start than last year and I was especially pleased with my time on the first stage," Hirvonen stated. "I thought it would be dry but a lot of the test was damp so it was tricky. Fortunately it was dry at the start so I managed to get some heat into the tyres before the wet parts. On the last stage I had good grip but the car understeered in the corners so we'll have a look in service and see what we can do."

Further down the order, Petter Solberg lies fourth on his first outing with a C4, 18.8 seconds off Hirvonen and 21.3 seconds up on Citroen Junior Team driver, Sebastien Ogier.

Jari-Matti Latvala completes the top six, only 0.8 seconds off P5, followed by Evgeny Novikov and Stobart Ford duo, Matthew Wilson and Henning Solberg, all three more than 45 seconds off the duel for fifth.

"I've not so driven so well," said Latvala. "I'm not driving like I did on the test last week and I seem to have lost my feeling for asphalt. Conditions were demanding with both wet and dry roads and I didn't have the right feel for the changing grip. It should be dry this afternoon so the grip should be more consistent. The rear brakes locked in tight corners and I want the car to be soft at the rear so we will change the rear anti-roll bar in service."

Of the rest, Munchi's Ford man Federico Villagra rounds out the top ten, whilst in the Junior WRC, Hans Weijs Jr is narrowly ahead of 2009 Junior champion and fellow Citroen C2 S1600 runner, Martin Prokop.

The action now continues with a repeat run through this morning's three stages, which will bring the first leg to a close.

Overall times after SS3 / Top 15:

1. Dani Sordo Citroen Total WRT C4 WRC 35mins 33.0secs M
2. Sebastien Loeb Citroen Total WRT C4 WRC +00mins 04.8secs M
3. Mikko Hirvonen BP Ford Abu Dhabi Focus RS WRC +00mins 19.1secs M
4. Petter Solberg PSWRT Citroen C4 WRC +00mins 37.9secs A8
5. Sebastien Ogier Citroen Junior Team C4 WRC +00mins 59.2secs MT
6. Jari-Matti Latvala BP Ford Abu Dhabi Focus RS WRC +01mins 00.0secs M
7. Evgeny Novikov Citroen Junior Team C4 WRC +01mins 49.4secs MT
8. Matthew Wilson Stobart VK Ford Focus WRC +01mins 53.5secs MT
9. Henning Solberg Stobart VK Ford Focus WRC +02mins 09.7secs MT
10. Federico Villagra Munchi's Ford Focus RS WRC +02mins 21.3secs MT
11. Dany Snobeck Peugeot 307 WRC +02mins 52.5secs A8
12. Khalid Al Qassimi BP Ford Abu Dhabi Focus RS WRC +02mins 52.6secs A8
13. Conrad Rautenbach Citroen Junior Team C4 WRC +03mins 07.1secs MT
14. Paul Bird Ford Focus RS WRC +03mins 12.4secs A8
15. Hans Weijs Jr Citroen C2 S1600 +03mins 39.9secs J

Overall JWRC after SS3 / Top 3:

1. Hans Weijs Jr Citroen C2 S1600 39mins 12.1secs J
2. Martin Prokop Citroen C2 S1600 +00mins 00.8secs J
3. Jordi Marti Renault Clio R3 +00mins 56.2secs J

Notable retirements:


* denotes elected/able to re-start under SupeRally format.

M - denotes Manufacturer entry.
MT - denotes Manufacturer Team entry.
J - denotes Junior WRC entry.

all times unofficial