Citro?n got its challenge for an incredible eighth successive triumph on Rallye Deutschland off to an impeccable start by leading the way in Thursday's shakedown with a commanding one-two-three-four - as the under-pressure Dani Sordo and former World Rally Champion Petter Solberg matched each other for the fastest time of the stage.

The 5.8km asphalt run near the villages of Mesenich and Grewenich and 16km to the west of the service park in Trier took place in dry and sunny conditions at a very pleasant 23?C, and Solberg and Sordo - the Spaniard competing for the first time alongside new co-driver Diego Vallejo - both set a best time of 3mins 39.4secs.

"It felt good," Sordo told the official WRC website of his return to the works Citro?n fold, having been demoted to the 'Junior Team' for Rally Finland three weeks ago. "Of course it's a big change having Diego alongside me, but we've tested for three days and since then we have been driving together in a road car in Spain.

"It's not the same as proper competition, but everything is okay. The aim for the rally is to try and get a podium, but running sixth on the road isn't an ideal position to be in because there will be a lot of dirt on the road. If the weather stays dry, that will help."

"The handbrake didn't release after a hairpin and we were stationary for about 15 seconds," revealed Solberg of an unexpected hitch on his abortive first run through the stage. "Luckily it happened today and we were able to fix it. After that we tried a few different settings, confirming what we found at our pre-event test. In the end the car feels absolutely perfect and we matched Sordo's time. I'm happy with that."

Multiple World Rally Champion S?bastien Loeb - unbeaten in Germany since 2002 - ran Sordo and Solberg closest, 1.3 seconds adrift of the pair as the Frenchman reported 'no problems' with his C4, and even if he acknowledged that 'the road was fast and narrow, so always difficult', he conceded that 'the feeling was good and the car is perfect for the moment'.

Former F1 star Kimi Raikkonen impressed up in fourth on only his second-ever asphalt WRC outing, just under two seconds further in arrears, with BP Ford Abu Dhabi World Rally Team duo Mikko Hirvonen and Jari-Matti Latvala only fifth and eighth-quickest respectively, sandwiching Stobart Ford returnee Fran?ois Duval in an excellent sixth.

The rally will rev into life properly at 9am on Friday with the opening Ruwertal/Fell stage.

Leading shakedown times:

1. Dani Sordo Citro?n C4 WRC 3:39.4
=1. Petter Solberg Citro?n C4 WRC 3:39.4
3. S?bastien Loeb Citro?n C4 WRC 3:40.7
4. Kimi Raikkonen Citro?n C4 WRC 3:42.6
5. Mikko Hirvonen Ford Focus RS WRC 09 3:42.7
6. Fran?ois Duval Ford Focus RS WRC 08 3:42.8
7. S?bastien Ogier Citro?n C4 WRC 3:43.3
8. Jari-Matti Latvala Ford Focus RS WRC 09 3:44.4
9. Matthew Wilson Ford Focus RS WRC 08 3:48.3
10. Khalid Al Qassimi Ford Focus RS WRC 08 3:51.4
11. Ken Block Ford Focus RS WRC 08 3:52.2