Citroen number one driver, Sebastien Loeb has made the perfect start to Rallye Deutschland by winning all three tests this morning.

Loeb, who was third quickest in the shakedown on Thursday, began the day by completing the first test, the 24.01 km Ruwertal / Fell 1 stage, in 13 minutes 54.2 seconds, 5.4 seconds up on his team-mate and closest rival, Dani Sordo. The Frenchman then pushed on in SS2 and SS3, increasing his advantage by 1.3 seconds in Grafschaft Veldenz and by 1.5 seconds in Moselland.

Seb thus returned to service having established an 8.2 second lead, already seemingly on course to win again in Germany, as he has done every time, stretching back to 2002, when he took his debut WRC victory.

"It is going very well - a good start with three best times in the first three stages. The feeling with the car was good," Loeb said. "On the first stage just before the finish I hit something with the left rear section, so the car was unstable on stage three. But nevertheless I am satisfied."

Dani Sordo meanwhile has also made a pretty impressive start, especially as this is his first event with new co-driver, Diego Vallejo. The Spaniard was second quickest in all three tests, but was unable to match Loeb: "I am very satisfied as I finished right behind Seb," Sordo said after the opening test.

BP Ford Abu Dhabi WRT number two and columnist, Jari-Matti Latvala completes the top three at this early stage, 28.8 seconds off Sordo, and 3.6 seconds up on his compatriot and team-mate, Mikko Hirvonen. The Rally Finland winner slipped down to fourth in SS2, before re-gaining third in SS3, when Hirvonen spun and stalled his Focus.

"Soft tyres were the right option for this morning, although the temperatures are climbing now and harder rubber might be the better choice this afternoon," Latvala said. "I'm faster here than I was in the last asphalt round in Bulgaria so we've made progress since then. I need to cut out the small mistakes. I've not made any major errors but the small ones have cost some time."

"There's a lot of dirt on the road and it's difficult to get my confidence with the changing grip," Hirvonen added. "I'm losing some seconds because of that but perhaps I have also been a little over-cautious. I stalled the engine at a junction in the last stage but I'm happy with the car and I'm not planning any changes for the afternoon."

Sebastien Ogier, back with the Citroen Junior Team for this event, lies fifth, around 10 seconds off the two Ford's in front. He was fifth in SS1 and sixth in SS2 and SS3. A solid start considering this is his first run in Germany in a World Rally Car, and considering he stalled his C4 WRC a couple of times.

"I stalled the engine after the start [of SS2] and stalled again at a hairpin in SS3," he confirmed. "But other than that it went well. I was able to get a good feeling for the car on the first two stages."

Further down the order, Britain's Matthew Wilson is sixth in his Stobart Ford Focus, albeit 50.4 seconds off Ogier.

"This is a very difficult rally and the stages are dirty but I feel I've got used to the surface quicker this time - it's definitely easier to handle the car on the tarmac here in comparison to Bulgaria," Wilson noted.

"We had a bit of understeer on the first couple of stages and the brake pedal was too soft - there's just no bite on the brakes so this lost us time. I think the overall set-up is just too soft so we might make some small changes during service. We've had no other problems - I'll just look to push this afternoon once I'm happier with the set-up."

F1 2007 world champion, Kimi Raikkonen and WRC returnee, Francois Duval complete the top eight, separated by 18.5 seconds, the latter losing time in SS3 with a driveshaft failure.

"The first stage went well this morning, I was pleased with my time but during the last 5km on SS2, I heard a pop after a junction as my front right driveshaft broke," Duval confirmed. "The last stage was very tough to drive as a result and I lost a lot of time.

"It's disappointing because the first stage had gone so well. I want to try and keep up with Jari-Matti and Mikko this afternoon and hope to make up some time. It's good that this is a long rally as it can hopefully allow me to catch up on the others after a bad start this morning."

Of the rest, Petter Solberg is ninth in his privately entered Citroen C4 WRC and Ken Block tenth. Solberg had a bad start and lost over 2 minutes in the opening stage when he picked up a puncture just 4 kilometres in: "I was unlucky on the first stage but nevertheless I set a good time in SS2," said 'Hollywood'. "I want to keep pushing now. We want to reduce the gap to the leaders step by step."

In the support classes, Martin Prokop has set the early pace in the SWRC, winning two out of the three stages to put himself 5.3 seconds up on Patrik Sandell, while Hans Weijs Jr and Armindo Araujo head the JWRC and PWRC categories respectively.

The opening leg now continues at 14.32 hours local time, with all three of this morning's tests due to be repeated to conclude the day.

Rallye Deutschland: Overall standings after Stage 3 (Top 10):

1. Sebastien Loeb Citroen Total WRT C4 WRC 39mins 30.5secs M
2. Dani Sordo Citroen Total WRT C4 WRC +00mins 08.2secs M
3. Jari-Matti Latvala BP Ford Abu Dhabi Focus RS WRC +00mins 37.0secs M
4. Mikko Hirvonen BP Ford Abu Dhabi Focus RS WRC +00mins 40.6secs M
5. Sebastien Ogier Citroen Junior Team C4 WRC +00mins 50.1secs M
6. Matthew Wilson Stobart M-Sport Ford Focus WRC +01mins 40.5secs M
7 Kimi Raikkonen Citroen Junior Team C4 WRC +02mins 01.0secs M
8. Francois Duval Stobart M-Sport Ford Focus WRC +02mins 18.5secs M
9. Petter Solberg PSWRT Citroen C4 WRC +02mins 46.7secs A8
10. Ken Block Monster WRT Ford Focus RS WRC +03mins 04.1secs A8

SWRC Standings after Stage 3 (Top 3):

1. Martin Prokop Ford Fiesta S2000 42mins 49.7secs S
2. Patrik Sandell Skoda Fabia S2000 +00mins 05.3secs S
3. P-G Andersson Skoda Fabia S2000 +00mins 10.7secs S

PWRC Standings after Stage 3 (Top 3):

1. Armindo Araujo Mitsubishi Lancer Evo X 44mins 12.3secs P
2. Patrik Flodin Subaru Impreza STi +00mins 21.8secs P
3. Hayden Paddon Mitsubishi Lancer Evo X +00mins 23.7secs P

JWRC Standings after Stage 3 (Top 3):

1. Hans Weijs Jr Citroen C2 S1600 43mins 55.7secs J
2. Thierry Neuville Citroen C2 S1600 +00mins 19.6secs J
3. Mathieu Arzeno Citroen C2 S1600 +00mins 22.4secs J

Notable retirements:

SS2. Henning Solberg Stobart M-Sport Ford Fiesta S2000 Mechanical

all times unofficial


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