Citroen number one driver Sebastien Loeb will lead into the first day proper of Wales Rally GB after topping the times through the Cardiff Bay Super Special stage tonight.
Loeb was 0.7 seconds quicker than team-mate Sebastien Ogier on the run through the 1.70 kilometre stage, which was held in ferocious weather conditions. Indeed gale force winds and heavy rain blasted Cardiff for much of the day, and viewing areas alongside the narrow strip of asphalt were evacuated for safety reasons as gusts reached 100kph.
Dani Sordo meanwhile was next up, 0.4 seconds up on Petter Solberg, to give Citroen a clean sweep of the top four places. Jari-Matti Latvala led the Ford charge ahead of F1 2007 world champion, Kimi Raikkonen and Mikko Hirvonen. Britain's Matthew Wilson completed the top eight.
"I chose to drive really carefully," said Latvala. "It's important to respect the conditions and not attack too much when they are as bad as this. Tomorrow I hope to find a good feeling, that's the way to earn a good result in this rally."
"It was dry when I left the start, but by the time I tackled the stage, the road was full wet," Hirvonen added.
The event now gets underway proper tomorrow [Friday], with SS2, Hafren 1, starting at 09.38 hours [local time].
Wales Rally GB: Overall standings after Stage 1 (Top 10):
1. Sebastien Loeb
Citroen Total WRT C4 WRC 1min 16.1secs
2. Sebastien Ogier
Citroen Total WRT C4 WRC +00mins 00.7secs
3. Dani Sordo
Citroen Junior Team C4 WRC +00mins 01.2secs
4. Petter Solberg
PSWRT Citroen C4 WRC +00mins 01.6secs
5. Jari-Matti Latvala
BP Ford Abu Dhabi Focus RS WRC +00mins 01.8secs
6. Kimi Raikkonen
Citroen Junior Team C4 WRC +00mins 03.3secs
7. Mikko Hirvonen
BP Ford Abu Dhabi Focus RS WRC +00mins 03.4secs
8. Matthew Wilson
Stobart M-Sport Ford Focus WRC +00mins 04.0secs
9. Ken Block
Monster WRT Ford Focus WRC +00mins 04.3secs
10. Andreas Mikkelsen
Skoda Fabia S2000 +00mins 05.5secs
11. Mads Ostberg
Subaru Impreza WRC +00mins 05.7secs
= Henning Solberg
Stobart M-Sport Ford Focus RS WRC +00mins 05.7secs
SWRC Standings after Stage 1 (Top 3):
1. Andreas Mikkelsen
Skoda Fabia S2000 1min 21.6secs
2. Jari Ketomaa
Ford Fiesta S2000 +00mins 01.3secs
3. Michal Kosciuszko
Skoda Fabia S2000 +00mins 02.7secs
PWRC Standings after Stage 1 (Top 3):
1. Patrik Flodin
Subaru Impreza STi 1min 25.8secs
2. Ott Tanak
Mitsubishi Lancer Evo X +00mins 00.1secs
3. Anders Grondal
Subaru Impreza STi +00mins 00.2secs
all times unofficial