Sebastien Ogier will lead into the first day proper of Rally Japan after topping the times on both Thursday runs through the short Sapporo Super Special stage.
Returning to the factory Citroen
team for the weekend's event, Ogier was quicker than Dani Sordo on the first run through the 1.57km stage inside the Sapporo Dome and then beat former F1 champion Kimi Raikkonen to the quickest time on the second run.
It means the Frenchman will take a lead of 2.0secs into the first proper day of the event, which will comprise of eight stages – two of which are further runs through the Super Special.
Ford's Mikko Hirvonen
sits in second place after moving ahead of Sordo on the second run through the stage, with the pair heading into Friday split by just 0.1secs on the times.
"Everything was good but tomorrow is the real thing and I can't wait," Hirvonen said. "The first run felt the best because when there was more heat in the tyres during the second run, I had more grip but also a little understeer."
Hirvonen's Ford team-mate Jari-Matti Latvala
– who earlier topped shakedown on the same stage – lies fourth and it is level on the times with Kimi Raikkonen, with championship leader Sebastien Loeb
in sixth, although the top six drivers will start Friday split by just 2.4secs.
Federico Villagra, Henning Solberg, Petter Solberg
(despite feeling unwell) and Matthew Wilson
round out the top ten after the leading drivers all made it through the two stages without issue.
Jari Ketomaa holds the early lead in the three-Fiesta S2000 fight going into Friday while home hero Toshi Arai is on top of the PWRC standings.Rally Japan – Top ten (After SS2):
1. Sebastien Ogier
Citroen Total WRT C4 WRC 02mins 43.2secs
2. Mikko Hirvonen
BP Ford Abu Dhabi Focus RS WRC +00mins 02.0secs
3. Dani Sordo
Citroen Junior Team C4 WRC +00mins 02.1secs
4. Jari-Matti Latvala
BP Ford Abu Dhabi Focus RS WRC +00mins 02.3secs
5. Kimi Raikkonen
Citroen Junior Team C4 WRC +00mins 02.3secs
6. Sebastien Loeb
Citroen Total WRT C4 WRC +00mins 02.4secs
7. Federico Villagra
Munchi's Ford Focus WRC +00mins 04.6secs
8. Henning Solberg
Stobart M-Sport Ford Focus WRC +00mins 05.7secs
9. Petter Solberg
C4 WRC +00mins 05.7secs
10. Matthew Wilson
Stobart M-Sport Ford Focus WRC +00mins 06.6secs
MSWRC – Top three (After SS2):
1. Jari Ketomaa
Ford Fiesta S2000 02mins 55.9secs
2. Bernardo Sousa
Ford Fiesta S2000 +00mins 01.0secs
3. Martin Prokop
Ford Fiesta S2000 +00mins 01.2secsPWRC – Top three (After SS2):
1: Toshi Arai
Subaru Impreza WRC STi 02mins 59.2secs
2. Patrik Flodin
Subaru Impreza WRX STi +00mins 01.2secs
3. Hayden Paddon
Mitsubishi Lancer Evo IX +00mins 01.3secs