Citroen's Sebastien Loeb leads Rallye Deutschland at the end of the opening day, the ninth round in the 2010 FIA World Rally Championship.
Loeb, who is the favourite to win this event - given he has won it every year since 2002, when it first joined the WRC - made a strong start this morning and was immediately quickest in SS1, the 24.01 km Ruwertal / Fell 1 stage, 5.4 seconds up on his team-mate and closest rival, Dani Sordo. The Frenchman then pushed on in SS2 and SS3, taking two more stage wins, to head into the mid-day service with an 8.2 second advantage.
On the repeat loop this afternoon, Loeb maintained his cushion, and while he only won one more stage – topping the times in SS5 – that was enough to see him increase his advantage to 9.5 seconds.
"I love days like this!" Loeb said. "Dani [Sordo] and I have pulled out more than a minute over our nearest rivals. I don't think we could have asked for much more. This afternoon, I set only one fastest time but it's always a bit trickier second time through. The others don't make the same little mistakes as in the first passage. In fact, I got caught out and stalled in a hairpin! But it's all going well and I'm looking forward to the second day in a relaxed frame of mind."
Sordo meanwhile managed to stay closer to Loeb this afternoon, and in the final test he was actually faster than the Frenchman, taking back 0.7 seconds, thanks to his first stage win of the event. It was a good display, especially as he has a new co-driver for this event, namely Diego Vallejo.
"We were chasing a scratch time all day. It's good to be second, and good to be only a handful of seconds behind Seb, but that's not the most important thing for me. I'm very pleased to have been in the rhythm in each split in each stage. I've been looking for this kind of consistency and I'm happy to have found it today. It's all very positive but there's no sense in getting carried away. Tomorrow's stages are nothing like those of the Mosel leg, and we have to drive the very long Panzerplatte stage twice," Sordo said.
BP Ford Abu Dhabi WRT number two, Jari-Matti Latvala is best of the non-Citroens and third overall, although the Finn was only fifth in all three stages this afternoon. As a result he lost more ground to the top two and now lies almost a minute off the battle for the lead.
"My target for this rally was to finish in the top five. Tonight I'm in third, so I'm very happy with that," Latvala said. "It's a strange feeling for me to be in a podium position in an asphalt rally. The car has improved since the last asphalt round in Bulgaria, with a different engine mapping and damper set-up, and it feels more stable.
"I learned a lot about driving on asphalt when I raced in the Nürburgring 24 Hours earlier in the year. I found a better way of braking and turning into corners and I have a faster and more flowing style. There's still work to do with both car and driver but although it's not easy for me on asphalt, I'm enjoying it," added the Rally Finland winner.