Citroen number one driver Sebastien Loeb
has laid down the gauntlet this morning on Rally Bulgaria, the seventh round in the 2010 World Rally Championship.
Loeb was quickest in both stages - 8.6 seconds up on Dani Sordo in the 31.77 kilometre-run through Batak Lake, before beating Petter Solberg
by 5.9 seconds in the 27.57 kilometre Belmeken Lake. He now heads into the mid-day service with a 16 second cushion.
"It was good, a very good start," said the Frenchman. "Everything with the car was perfect. I tried to push hard from the start. I am very satisfied with what we have done so far. The grip was not so bad. It was okay, but you cannot really compare it to another tarmac rally. In general it is wide and fast here. It is impressive to drive."
Sebastien Ogier meanwhile heads the chasing pack, having moved up to P2 and ahead of Dani Sordo in the second stage. Ogier is currently 2.6 seconds in front of the Spaniard, but he was not particularly happy with his C4 and he lost a wing mirror in SS1 when he clipped a wall.
"I had a lot of understeer," Ogier explained. "It is not a good feeling to drive. But second is positive. Seb is very fast and it is difficult when you see his splits - every time it is a bit more and a bit more. Even if you try it is very difficult to follow him. We hope to continue like this now and if we can fight with him that would be nice. But it could all depend on the weather this afternoon."
Away from the top-three, Petter Solberg
lies fourth and only just behind the battle for second on his first event with new co-driver, Chris Patterson.
F1 2007 world champion Kimi Raikkonen completes the top five, to underline Citroen's utterly dominant start to this event. Although he is 13.9 seconds off Solberg, he has a good cushion - 7.3 seconds - over Mikko Hirvonen, the lead Ford, in P6.
"It was okay," said Raikkonen. "In the first stage we were a bit careful. But there was a lot of sand and mud on the road. That was the big problem for us because we are starting so far back. Hopefully we can keep this place this afternoon and tomorrow we should have a better start position."
Hirvonen, who was sixth quickest in both tests, and who opted for Pirelli's hard compound PZero tyre, said his pace-notes weren't quick right.